(Sam at Lincoln County Humane Society is featured in picture) “Canadians could end pet homelessness within a generation if they just took action today,” says Julie White.  Julie is the senior director of programs, grants and field initiatives at PetSmart Charities of Canada.

At a time when we are being told that only $46 per Canadian could end homelessness in the country, it’s a good time to consider the plight of homeless animals too.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a country where there were no homeless people or animals?

Maybe that’s a hopeful ideal.  Yet, still, much can be done to reduce the numbers of those without homes.

A big factor in continuing animal homelessness is our perceptions about this issue.  Many – maybe most – Canadians are compassionate towards animals without homes.  Animals in Humane Society and other shelters or in pet rescue facilities.  But compassion is not enough.

The 2014 PetSmart Charities of Canada Shelter Pet Report – the first of its kind in Canada – showed that a vast number of Canadians underestimate this problem. We just don’t get it.

PetSmart Charities of Canada in collaboration with IPSOS Reid surveyed more than 3,000 Canadians on their perceptions of adoption, spaying and neutering and animal welfare resources in Canada.  The results suggest we all need to take a second look.

The report found that while 73 percent of people say that pet homelessness is at least somewhat important to them, an equal number of people admit they did nothing to help solve the issue in their communities.  Even pet owners don’t get it.  Sixty-six per cent of them (dog owners more than cat owners) underestimate the number of pets euthanized annually in Canada. Approximately 70,000 pets are euthanized every year.

Perceptions about shelters, and other options for pet adoptions, is too limited.  The animal adoption scene has changed.  Everyone knows about pet shelters, Humane Society and otherwise, but few are aware of rescue dogs, many of them purebreds.  For those wanted to adopt a particular breed, rescue groups online are organized by breed.  And it is possible to check a variety of shelter groups using the breeds you like as a filter to see if any are available at shelters nearby or within driving distance.  Knowing this is important, because 23% of those interviewed reported that they preferred a specific breed.

There are many advantages to finding the breed you want in a rescue group online, or locating one in a shelter.  It will cost much less.  Purebreds can cost hundreds – even thousands – of dollars.  Paris Hilton is an extreme case.  Her miniature Pomeranian, bred in Calgary, cost $13,000.  Shelter and rescue pets cost very little by comparison (about $290 for dogs, $25 for cats at LCHS).  And they will already be spayed or neutered, a cost the purchased purebred must add to their costs.  Thirteen per cent of those interviewed said the low cost of shelter or rescue adoptions was a major factor for them.  But 45% reported that the sheer joy of knowing they’ve saved a pet’s life was the main reason they adopted from shelters.

The main problem causing the euthanasia of many animals is the sheer volume of homeless animals.  The solution to this problem is spaying and neutering. LCHS ensures that all animals are spayed or neutered before they are adopted.  Although the survey found that spay/neuter results are high at 86%, only 29% said their pet was fixed when they adopted.  That means 57% have taken responsibility for fixing their pet.  This must change.  Shelters and rescue sites are still overwhelmed with homeless animals.  Everyone with a pet must take responsibility for this simple procedure.  I remember taking a stray male cat I found in a strip mall to be neutered.  The owners put up a sign, and I contacted them.  They said they wanted to breed this very ordinary cat.  I said I would return the cat to them if they gave me the money it cost to neuter him.  They gave me a cheque.  Naturally, it bounced.  Yet I knew I had saved the lives of how many homeless kittens.

The survey found that only 16% of those with pets – or thinking about adopting one – were unaware of low-cost Spay/Neuter Clinics, such as the one attached to the LCHS shelter at 160 Fourth Ave., St. Catharines.

So, if you still haven’t “got it,” get it now, and do what you can to understand the options available today to reduce the number of homeless animals.  As Julie White says, we CAN end animal homelessness in a generation.

To read more details of the 2014 PetSmart Charities of Canada Shelter Pet Report go to <http://www.petsmartcharities.org/campaigns/petsmart-charities-of-canada-shelter-pet-report>

Did You Know?  LCHS officers exercise authority and have police powers under the Criminal Code, among several other pieces of legislation.


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