Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Today, a dog made it through the euthanasia chamber without dying. His three companions did, but he didn't. I think the CO tank was almost empty, and there just wasn't enough gas to kill them all. He was obviously sick, with drool dripping from his mouth, but he was sitting up and very much alive. It reminded of an almost identical case that I saw in the news a year or so ago, about a dog back East that made it through the chamber alive. Someone at the shelter rushed it to a vet, they fixed it up, and adopted it.

Ours wasn't such a happy ending. We didn't have the money before to save its life, and we didn't have the money after. We put it in the smaller cat euthanasia chamber and ran it through again. It's in a much happier place now.

But whose fault was this really? It wasn't our lack of funding or time or space--the problem started long before the dog got to our shelter. I want be accusatory and say it's the fault of owners who don't properly care for their animals, who don't get them spayed or neutered, or let them run loose, but I try to be understanding. Sometimes little Bobby opens the door and Tiger slips out, or the meter reader leaves the gate open and Spot escapes. One way or another, animals end up at the shelter.

But here's where I can make a difference. I think a lot of animals at the shelter go unclaimed simply because people don't know where to look for them, or even that the shelter exists. Our jurisdiction covers a dozen cities and towns, and 30 miles of highway. I can see how someone at one end of our jurisdiction might not know to travel to the other end to find their missing pet. The problem is that other than listing ourselves in obvious places like the Yellow Pages, we don't have the money for extensive advertising.

The trick, in my mind? Free advertising. Take advantage of newspapers and local tv stations. Create a story that is newsworthy, and they'll cover it. My idea? Collect a number of collars equal to the number of animals we euthanize every year. Last year, that was about 3000. That's a big pile of collars. Dump them somewhere public, get some attention, and reporters will flock to the story like flies. Explain the situation, the story gets out, and now a lot more people know that their animals end up at the shelter, and where the shelter is.

But why stop there? Take that carload of collars and go to other shelters in the state. Start a website. Get other groups to do it in other states. Make it a big deal. Get on CNN.

But you have to start somewhere. Earlier this evening, I emailed a handful of different pet supply companies, asking who I would talk to about donating collars for an awareness program. If I don't get any success there, I'll go in person to the local PetSmart and other stores. Failing that, I'll just start saving collars from the shelter. Hey, we get plenty.

While I'm working/waiting on that, my next step will be to start thinking about a website design. Somewhere that I could get word out about the program, get support, and possibly PayPal donations to help buy collars. It might move a little slowly since I have other important things going on in my life at the moment (e.g. getting married), but I'll keep it moving forward.


Xirax said...

You probably need a single national website where owners of lost pets can go to have a look for them. Is there an overseeing organization over all pet shelters in the US? They can do something like that, with accounts for individual pet shelters. And the shelters can then enter every animal they get in there.

The Writer said...

Sorry it's taken me a while to respond. Anyway, the Humane Society of the United States) HSUS is a sort-of overseeing organization. But their interaction with local shelters is sometimes limited to monthly check-ups just to make sure the place is clean and animals are being treated humanely.

A central website might be a good idea. As it is, local shelters are on their own when advertising their existance or posting listings of recovered strays. Of course, lost animals are pretty much a local issue--animals don't stray too far from home, but if people knew exactly where to go to find a website, then it might be easier.

I'll have to check if HSUS has listings of all US animal shelters...and if so, if they provide links to individual websites those shelters may have set up. If not, that would be a great project.