Can Legislation Help Curb the Unplanned Pet Population?

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Spring is just around the corner in Fort Collins, which also means puppy and kitten season is not far behind. The cuteness of “critter babies” is intoxicating at first, but after that surge of serotonin, it’s easy to forget that almost half of the animals born in the United States are unplanned.

This number includes abandoned animals on the side of the road, relinquished litters born from animals that “got out” or animals that simply are never fixed at all. According to the Humane Society of the United States , “there are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year, and barely half of these animals are adopted.” An estimated 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the United States every day, compared to approximately 11,000 humans born. I saw this statistic on many online sites, but was unable to get a clear source for it. Even if it’s remotely true, that is insane!

When you think of the overall population numbers, efforts to get ahead of animal sterilization are kind of like trying to catch up to someone on a hiking trail that has a two hour head start. This got me thinking. We just celebrated World Spay Day focused on educating people on the value of spay and neuter and the challenges it creates for the animals and the community, but what if more was done at the legislative level?

I recently saw an article about a proposed ordinance in Chicago called the Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance. It would prevent pet stores from selling dogs or cats. Instead they would only be able to get available animals from shelters to feature in the store. Would this type of legislation be a better way to go?

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What are Northern Colorado Pet Stores Doing?

In many ways our local chain pet stores in Northern Colorado like PetCo already have very strong relationships with local shelters. They frequently host local non-profits like Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic, Animal House Rescue and Grooming, Larimer Humane Society and countless other non-profits, inviting them to bring animals into the store to help with adoption efforts.

I chatted with Brandie Sadian, General Manager from the PetCo in Fort Collins, and she said that PetCo only features pets that come from approved shelters and non-profits. “Our goal is to find forever homes for unwanted animals in shelters and we want to help however we can. Any animals featured in the store have been to the vet and gotten the required shots and most are spayed and neutered,” said Sadian.

Sadian added that if an animal is not already fixed, their purchase contract specifically stipulates that the animal needs to be fixed within a certain time frame. The process to follow up on compliance is determined by the organization adopting out the animal, but can range from a cash deposit that is returned to the owner once proof of spay or neuter is provided or through a follow-up visit. If the animal remains “in tact”, the organization can take it back.

In comparison, competitor PetSmart has a non-profit arm of their company, PetSmart charities, that funds adoption and spay/neuter programs (Fort Collins Cat Rescue gets funding from them) to help do their part regarding animal control. Their efforts help at a local level through grants, however, there are a lot of non-profit organizations fighting for the same dollars nationwide.

But what about the local mom and pop pet stores, or people who set up shop in a parking lot selling critters in the warm weather or on Craigslist? How can you be sure about the health and breeding conditions and health of these animals? Sadian told me that the process followed by PetCo is a corporate one, not a legislative one state-wide. That means you, as a potential pet owner, need to do your due diligence and research who you are buying a pet from and the source of their animals.

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Doing Your Part to Help Curb the Birth of Unplanned Pets

At this point in writing this post, my thoughts drifted to my cat, Monty. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the kittens in his litter or if his barn cat mother ever got fixed. I will never know the papa. At the time I didn’t even think to ask any details – I was just so happy to get my first kitten and welcome him into my home. Because I trusted the person who cared for and trained him I didn’t think much of it, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been more thorough.

In my personal opinion, legislation would be a great idea. It would take some of the burden off the shelters, help get a better handle on the pet population problem and force all pet stores to adhere to more standardized requirements, similar to the ones outlined by Sadian. But the challenge still lies in the sheer numbers of pets that are not cared for and end up in shelters in the first place. The only way to manage that is to keep on keeping on until more strict legislation or other solutions can help.

What are your thoughts? Would you vote for legislation that puts stronger regulations on the sale of pets in Colorado, specifically how businesses obtain animals for sale and restricting them to collaborating with shelter pets only?

Please note: The photos in this post are not mine, as it would be hard to find timely stray animals. Photos were sourced from Rachid H, cat (unsourced),  Manatari respectively. Sadly, there were many online photos I could have chosen.

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