We need to fix the pet problem

By Kacie Svoboda

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I have always been a lover of animals — all animals. Currently, I have a dog that makes every single day better and when I was younger, I had a cat and a constantly rotating menagerie of temporarily cared for toads, turtles and salamanders.

When I was in third grade, I happily laid down on the ground during a field trip so a park ranger could lay a western hognose snake on me. While my poor teacher shivered in horror, I giggled as it slithered over my face.

My enthusiasm for animals is sustained by my history of amazing experiences with them. I’m also sure it helps that I’ve never been seriously bitten, scratched or otherwise injured by any creature.

Animals have rarely let me down, so I hate when I feel that humankind let’s them down. I feel this most acutely in terms of how we treat domesticated pets. In my view, we are doubly responsible for their welfare because we made these animals dependent upon us.

In late December, the Humane Society of the Black Hills in Rapid City took in 75 animals rescued from a negligent kennel in Creighton. Last week, Michelle Brock, vice president of the Battle Mountain Humane Society in Hot Springs, offered up a prayer on the non-profit, no-kill animal shelter’s Facebook page — asking for funds to continue providing care to the animals housed there.

Both these facilities are in need of donations of food, bedding and money to provide for area pets in need of homes. However, there are many other ways individuals can help these organizations and the animals they’re centered around.

I strongly encourage anyone looking for a pet to check out humane societies first. But if you do go to get a pet from another source, please make sure it is not a puppy mill. Puppy mills are establishments that breed puppies or other animals for sale in inhumane conditions.

There are several warning signs that you’re dealing with a puppy mill. Puppy mills commonly do not let potential owners meet the animals’ parents or visit the kennel. They also offer a variety of breeds, multiple litters and animals younger than eight weeks old. Future pet owners should be additionally concerned if the animals are coming from out-of-state, particularly Missouri and Illinois.

Puppy mills are for-profit businesses that do not put the welfare of their animals first. If everyone collectively refuses to get pets from puppy mills, they will stop turning a profit and disappear.

Local citizens can also get their pets spayed or neutered in order to reduce the number of homeless pets. If you cannot afford to care for your pets’ offspring or provide homes for them, your pets should be fixed. There are no real excuses for it.

According a USA Today article, spaying and neutering can increase the lifespan of dogs and cats. The report stated that neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than un-neutered male dogs and spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than un-spayed female dogs. Neutering male cats and dogs eliminates their chances of getting testicular cancer.

Un-spayed female cats and dogs also have a greater chance of developing a fatal uterine infection, uterine cancer and other reproductive system cancers.

In the United States, approximately seven million homeless animals enter animal shelters every year. Only about half of these animals are adopted, while the rest are euthanized.

This can be an easy problem to relieve if we all commit to fixing it together.

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