Kundycki 1Emilie KundyckiMrs. TilleryAP LiteratureFriday, November 18th, 2011 Animal Abuse and Overpopulation in America A dog wanders the streets, cold, starved and alone. Why has no one cared for it?There is no reason; this dog, like millions of others, is merely another victim of animalcruelty and overpopulation in North America. There are so many stray animals, in fact,that experts admit that, “it is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats livein the United States, [though] estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. (“PetOverpopulation in the United States”) In spite of this, many continue to dump unwantedpets or abuse them until they either die of neglect or are picked up by animal control. Inturn, animal cruelty and overpopulation strains animal shelters, the governments whosupport them, and animal control workers, while also providing moral dilemmas in thehome. Contrary to popular belief, animal cruelty still runs rampant in the United States.Generally, law officials classify animal abuse into two categories: passive and active.“Passive cruelty is typified by cases of neglect, where the crime is a lack of action ratherthan the action itself – however… severe animal neglect can cause incredible pain andsuffering to an animal (“Animal Cruelty).” Many owners tell themselves that giving ananimal a bad home is better than no home at all. However, not only could these ownersprovide better attention to their pets if they attempted to, but also passive neglect can bejust as cruel to the animal involved. For example, “[many] families dump the dogs into apermanent backyard existence or an ignored existence once they have a baby (“Why Are
Kundycki 2There so Many Homeless Pets?”).” In this, the family forgets both the physical andemotional needs of the dog. Pets have been domesticated to the point where it is nowimpossible for them to survive without proper care, particularly in the hostile urbanenvironment of today’s society. Meanwhile, some pets face hostility of a different kindthrough active cruelty from their owners. “Active cruelty implies malicious intent, wherea person has deliberately and intentionally caused harm to an animal, and is sometimesreferred to as Non-Accidental Injury (“Animal Cruelty).” This can include harming ananimal to manipulate someone else, performing dangerous experiments on the pet, or anyviolence directed at an animal with clear motive. This type of abuse has recently beenbrought to attention by the media in shows such as “Animal Cops.” However, awarenesshas done little but expose this abuse, with many more knowing of the issue but doinglittle to prevent it. Meanwhile, more and more pets are discovered by animal control eachyear. What happens to the victims of this abuse? The outcome varies greatly with eachcircumstance. Of those picked up by animal rescuers and given to shelters, “fewer thanhalf the number of cats admitted to shelters every year find homes, while more than halfof the number of dogs do. Even no-kill shelters turn pets away when they are full(Nelson).” Those who aren’t adopted eventually end up euthanized, and many of thoseadopted are eventually dumped by irresponsible owners. Those turned away often jointhem in the streets as well, aggravating animal overpopulation even more. For some,unfortunately, the cases are far worse. In one court case, “an investigating officerreceived a complaint that there was a closed pet shop with dead animals in the frontwindow. Upon further inspection by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
Kundycki 3to Animals (ASPCA) officer, several dead animals were observed from the front windowand a dog was heard barking from inside the store (Animal Cruelty/Abuse:Abandonment).” Aside from the one dog found in the back of the store, all the pets in thiscircumstance were dead. Shockingly enough, this was a case of passive abuse. Generally,the chances of survival for victims of active abuse are even direr, with almost allrequiring immediate medical attention. One of the main issues for animal shelters and humane societies, also known asno-kill shelters, is overpopulation. In fact, it is generally accepted that “seven dogs andcats are born every day for each person born in the US. Of those, only 1 in 5 puppies andkittens stay in their original home for his/her natural lifetime. The remaining 4 areabandoned to the streets or end up at a shelter (“Pet Overpopulation BreedsEuthanasia”).” Against expectations, many of these puppies and kittens are born frompets that already have owners. Some owners allow their pets to freely mate, believing thatit either makes the pet healthy, they could afford the offspring, or that it provides alearning experience for themselves or their family; also, many simple say that they cannotafford to spay or neuter their pet. However, most of these people are disappointed; in fact,“the cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittensfor one year (“Facts about Animal Shelters”)." In turn, many unofficial breeders abandonthe newborn kittens and puppies either in the street, shelters, or given away to friends.However, even the last option is derogatory to other animals, for with each kitten orpuppy taken in by a family or friend, there is another stray left behind in a shelter. Thissame situation also occurs when people buy their new pet from pet stores. Often, dogs inthese situations come from puppy mill, a place “where dogs live miserably in tiny cages
Kundycki 4with little or no opportunity to exercise, play or socialize. (“Pet Overpopulation”)” Notonly has the family just left a dog in need of a home in a shelter, but they also encouragedthe abusive puppy mill to continue operating. As more pets are purchased from thesemills, the demand for them increases, and more pets are born and, consequently, abusedand sometimes abandoned. As this continues, more shelters are opened, and the cycleonly continues, stressing all involved. Animal abuse and overpopulation has begun to show its wear on the countrythrough its costs, both in personal households and government offices. In the UnitedStates alone, "over $2 billion is spent annually by local governments to shelter andultimately destroy 8-10 million adoptable dogs and cats due of shortage of homes (“PetOverpopulation Breeds Euthanasia”)." The government is held responsible for supportingmany shelters across the country. Much of the money spent by the government is used topay animal control employees or shelter owners; this cost is increasing as more pets arereleased due to overpopulation. On a more personal level, families are beginning to fearthe outdoors, as many abandoned pets form “into packs and become a danger to people,livestock, and cared for pets (Nelson).” Ironically, this enforces the thought that animalsare dangerous, and fewer families are willing to adopt animals. Of course, this onlycauses more pets to be left alone in shelter, which eventually leads to their demise. Asmore pets are euthanized in shelters, the cost imposed upon the government rises, and thegovernment, in turn, raises taxes upon the people to pay them. This is particularlyprevalent in America, as “the biggest costs associated with pet overpopulation are felt indeveloped nations where the burden of excess animals falls on government hands or intothe laps of charities (Nelson).”
Kundycki 5 Of course, there are also hidden costs in pet overpopulation and abuse. For one,“the overload of pets causes more disease to be spread through a shelter from the largeturnover of animals. Many pets are brought to shelters because their owners cannot affordthe veterinary expenses of maintaining optimum health in their animals (Ames).” Manyshelters nowadays lack the funds to care for the extensive amount of animals brought in,and so begin to shirk their responsibilities as caretakers. Some veterinarians do offer freeor discounted treatment, particularly for spaying and neutering, but the sheer amount ofpets often defeats any benefits from any discounts. In fact, "it takes an Animal RescueShelter between $20,000.00 to $50,000.00 a month to stay open… [and] to help the nextanimal that comes through their doors (Jensen)." Most people aren’t actually aware of theresponsibilities and costs of running a shelter, and thus not only do people ignore them,but those who run the shelter are often left in desperation or forced to close it down. Inthe end, all suffer from animal overpopulation and cruelty: the government, the generalpopulace, the shelters, and the animals themselves. Shelters accept the responsibility of former owners when accepting new animals.Formally, the government cites “public shelters [as] "depositories of living animals"…responsible for treating those animals "kindly" (“Shelter Laws”).” However, “kindly” isnot defined in the official statement, leading many shelters to reach their ownconclusions. Normally, this begins in a positive manner, with employees and volunteersdedicated themselves to providing a quality lifestyle to all animals admitted.Unfortunately, most have abandoned this optimism now that “[most] animal shelters inthe United States are overloaded with pets (Ames).” This overload not only raises costs,but also forces many shelters to turn to euthanasia in a desperate attempt to thin the
Kundycki 6crowd of animals. "Approximately 8-12 million companion animals enter animal sheltersnationwide every year and approximately 5-9 million are euthanized (60% of dogs and70% of cats)…. the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state (“Facts aboutAnimal Shelters”)." Almost all are opposed to euthanasia, with few euthanizing their petsfor reasons other than health issues, but nowadays, many shelters feel they have no otheroption. Generally, this is done in the most humane manner possible, though some sheltershave begun to use methods such as placing animals in large gas chambers in order toreduce costs and time spent putting the animals to sleep. In spite of public and privateoutrage, euthanasia is rampant in today’s animal societies due mainly to overpopulation. In the recent years, pet mistreatment has shot to new levels as a side-effect ofAmerican materialism and culture. As an effect, millions of animals now wander thestreets, while more yet are abused, neglected, or put to sleep. Although shelters are tryingto remedy the situation, great strides must be made in order to resolve the issue. Untilthen, America shall continue to be plagued by animal cruelty and overpopulation.