Last year Salt Lake County Animal Services received 10,491 live dogs and cats. Despite conscientious efforts to return lost pets to their owners or to adopt them out, the agency had to euthanize 1,315 dogs and 3,965 cats last year. That's more than 100 dogs and cats put down each week.
These are sobering numbers. The worst part is, many of these deaths are unnecessary. Too many animals end up in Salt Lake County Animal Services' care, and there are too few people willing to adopt them. Seemingly, much could be done to reduce animal populations. If pet owners made a concerted effort to spay or neuter their dogs and cats, there would be far fewer unwanted dogs and cats.
As for the latter issue, people who want a pet should consider adopting from public or nonprofit animal rescue services. Many have puppies, purebred dogs and small dogs. One bonus of adopting a dog that has grown out of the puppy stage is that someone else has endured house training and chewed-up slippers.
Because of the intense demands placed on Salt Lake County Animal Services, the agency has begun to transfer dogs out of state to help lighten its load and send those communities dogs of certain breeds that aren't as common there, which may improve the odds of an adoption.
To hear animal services spokeswoman Temma Martin tell it, this is a Band-Aid approach to a larger community problem. As much as government-run animal service agencies and nonprofit organizations attempt to curb the number of homeless pets in Utah, the community at-large needs to do its part. Statewide, some 28,000 animals were euthanized last year, according to the Utah Adoption Center (formerly Wasatch Humane).
In addition to curbing pet populations, spayed and neutered dogs and cats live longer and healthier lives. Neutered male dogs and cats tend to wander less, which cuts down on fights and reduces the likelihood of being hit by cars. Another bonus of spaying or neutering pets is cheaper licensing fees.
Yes, these surgeries cost money, but the surgical fees are nominal. Some clinics perform them at reduced fees. No More Homeless Pets in Utah has funds for free spay-and-neuter surgeries. The funds are awarded according to federal income guidelines. Go to www.utahpets.org for more information.
There's really no excuse for the unnecessary deaths of so many animals each year. The solutions appear to be in reach. All it takes is a community's will to make long-term commitments to its animal companions.