The problem of dog overpopulation is a global one and requires a solution on a global scale. But like every journey that begins with a single step, this particular journey must begin with every dog owner in every town and every city in the country. Those conscientious owners who act responsibly by spaying and neutering their cherished family pets.
Spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus of a female dog) and neutering (removing the testicles of a male dog) are simple procedures, rarely requiring so much as an overnight stay in a veterinary clinic. Because half of all litters are unplanned, and because puppies can conceive puppies of their own, spaying and neutering them before the age of 6 months can help break this cycle.
According to SPAY USA, an unspayed female dog, her unneutered mate and their offspring (if none are spayed or neutered) result in the births of a staggering 12,288 puppies in just 5 years.
The inevitable outcome? Hundreds of thousands of dogs being euthanized through no fault of their own. Why? Because they are the tragic, but avoidable, result of over breeding and overpopulation. Why? Because there are too few shelters to house them and too few homes to either foster or adopt them. Why? Because there are still too many dog owners unwilling to spay and neuter their pets.
The positive effects of spaying and neutering far outweigh the negatives. Females spayed before their first heat are much less likely to develop mammary cancer than those left intact. Early spaying is also their best protection against conditions like pyometritis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the uterus, as well as ovarian and uterine cancers. Early neutering of males protects them against testicular cancer, and helps curb both aggression and other undesirable behaviors. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents are caused by intact males.
For years, reputable rescue groups have been spaying and neutering the animals in their care before even putting them up for adoption. More recently, in an effort to address at least part of this ongoing problem, various organizations -- large and small, urban and rural, public and private -- have been springing up across the country. From the SPCA to local humane societies, spay/neuter clinics are opening and operating. Mobile spay/neuter clinics are reaching out to those unable to reach them. Many rescue groups now offer their own Spay Neuter Incentive Programs (SNIP), which provide assistance to low income households.
Imagine if there were more regional, local and mobile spay/neuter clinics. More Spay Neuter Incentive Programs. Imagine entire communities across the country, where every pet owner took personal responsibility for spaying and neutering their pets. Imagine what we, as part of the global community, could accomplish then.
Why Foster a Dog?
“Fostering a dog is not a lifetime commitment, it is a commitment to saving a life.”
This is the watchword of rescue groups everywhere.
To foster a dog is, quite simply, to save that dog’s life. A foster home provides that same dog with a safe, temporary place of refuge until he is ultimately placed in a permanent, adoptive home.
Most rescues rely solely on a network of dedicated, volunteer foster homes, and could not survive without them. And rescues NEVER have enough foster homes.
Why? Because there are more dogs in need than there are foster homes available to meet that need.
There are many benefits to fostering, many pleasant surprises and many unexpected rewards. Foster parents, past and present, describe it as one of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of their lives.
Fostering is both a way of enriching the lives of the dogs and people involved, and a constructive way for people to give back to their communities. Fostered dogs can provide hours of entertainment and love for their humans, and provide valuable life lessons for adults and children alike.
By taking a deserving dog into their homes, fosters increase that dog’s chances of being adopted. Foster families have the time and the ability to transform their foster dog, through one-on-one contact, exercise and training, into a pet any person or family would be proud to call their own.
Fostering provides a needy dog with a stable environment, coupled with love, attention and affection. While the foster family provides the food, the rescue usually provides everything else, including payment of all medical costs to ensure the dog’s ongoing health and wellbeing.
Fosters are the essential eyes and ears of rescue. By spending every day with their foster dog, fosters will learn all they can about his particular personality. They will be able to identify any behavioral issues that need to be addressed, then work on addressing them.
If fosters already have a dog – either their own or another foster -- in residence, all the better. The more animals their foster dog meets, the more socialized he will become, the more easily he will handle stress, and the more relaxed he will be around strangers. And it’s a simple matter to add another warm, furry body to their own dog’s daily walks, meal and potty schedules.
For those who have never owned a dog, fostering provides them with the unique opportunity of seeing if they themselves are suited for permanent pet parenthood.
But fostering a dog is NOT a form of trial adoption for that particular dog. There is even a term for it: foster failure. The most successful fosters are those who, despite being emotionally invested, know that they are a stepping stone towards their foster dog’s future. And that as one successfully fostered dog leaves their home, another needy and deserving dog is waiting to enter it.
Ultimately, then, fostering a dog saves not just one life, but two.
Sadder words were never spoken.
Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.
Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.
Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.
Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.
Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.
Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.
If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local SPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.
Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – wherever possible, but being mindful of the possible legal ramifications – choose to act on your own.
If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully -- either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.
Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.
A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.
Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“
Picture yourself on a sweltering summer day in a long winter coat. Are you hot yet? Are you itchy or thirsty? Are you desperately searching for shade?
Now picture your dogs on that same summer day. And you’ll have some idea of how THEY feel.
Protecting them from the hot sun, hot air and hot ground is essential to keeping them safe outside. All it requires is common sense and some advance planning.
Here are some suggestions:
For dogs with particularly thick or heavy coats, have a groomer lightly trim them back.
Guard against sunburn by applying either a child’s SPF 45 sun block or a specially formulated animal sunscreen to the tips of your dog’s ears, the nose and the belly.
Whether on a porch, patio or lawn, create a shaded area using planters or shrubbery.
Set up a makeshift canopy using a blanket draped across two chairs.
Limit your dog’s outdoor exercise.
Take your walks early in the morning or when the sun is setting. If the day’s particularly hot and humid, forego your walks altogether.
Turn on a garden sprinkler and let your dog run through it or fill a specially constructed doggy pool with water for him to lie in or splash about in.
Keep your dog’s water bowl filled, cool, and free of floating debris.
Avoid hot asphalt, which can quickly burn the pads of your dog’s paws. Place the back of your hand on the sidewalk or road pavement. If you can’t keep your hand there for seven seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog.
Wherever possible, walk your dog on the grass instead.
NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car. Whether in the shade with the windows cracked or with the motor running and the air conditioning on, your car can become a deathtrap within minutes.
Watch your dog for signs of heat exhaustion. Because dogs don’t sweat, their only way of cooling down is by panting or releasing heat through their paws.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include exaggerated panting, excessive salivation, a vacant expression, restlessness or listlessness, trembling, and skin that’s hot to the touch.
If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, get him into the shade as quickly as possible. Give him cool water to drink and either hose him down, cover him with cool, damp cloths or put him in a bathtub filled with cool water.
If your dog’s condition worsens, seek immediate medical attention.
To be a responsible pet owner is to be an informed pet owner.
The list of safety rules may seem long, but the hot days of summer are even longer.
The Many Why’s of Rescue
Why adopt a rescue puppy or dog? Why not buy one from an ad on the Internet or from a pet store? Why not buy one from a breeder? There are many reasons -- all of them humane.
The growth of the Internet has spurred the growth of ads selling pets. But it also provides anonymity to a more insidious growth: that of puppy mills and so-called “backyard” breeders. It helps them avoid accountability when they sell unhealthy or mistreated pets to unsuspecting, over-eager buyers. And it only serves to confirm the axiom: “buyer beware.”
Each time a dog is bought from an ad on the Internet, a homeless dog is left without a home.
Many pet stores rely on both puppy mills and “backyard” breeders. Like the Internet, they rely on impulse buying. A child ogles a playful puppy through a pane of glass, and that old song, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” begins. Few parents can refuse the insistent “Please! Please! Please!” of their children.
Each time a puppy is bought from a pet store, a surrendered dog languishes in a shelter.
There may be thousands of legitimate breeders throughout the country but there are just as many unscrupulous ones. There are no laws regulating who can and cannot breed. There are no inspections of their facilities. Even a certificate from a recognized kennel club means only that the breeder has “agreed” to its code of ethics. A piece of paper is simply that: a piece of paper.
Each time a dog is bought from an unscrupulous breeder, an abandoned dog moves closer to death in a pound.
Why, then, adopt a rescue dog?
There are tens of thousands of healthy, happy and balanced dogs available from thousands of rescue organizations across the country. Contrary to popular belief, they include purebreds as well as crossbreeds and mixed breeds. And for people intent on a specific breed, there are rescue groups devoted exclusively to a single breed of dog.
Adopting a rescue dog is saving that dog’s life. Rescue organizations are usually the last refuge for abandoned and abused dogs, surrendered and senior dogs. They are often a dog’s only escape from a puppy mill, shelter or pound. These rescued dogs are placed in loving and experienced, volunteer foster homes, where they are socialized with people and other animals.
They are spayed or neutered, de-wormed, updated on all of their vaccinations and micro-chipped. They receive whatever veterinary care they need, and are either trained or re-trained before being put up for adoption. And everything is included in the rescue’s modest adoption fees.
It is said that saving a dog makes that dog doubly grateful. By extension, then, anyone who saves a dog will be doubly blessed.
What better reasons could there be to adopt?