Since January of 2014, our priority has been taking in animals from area shelters whenever the need arises, and this remains our priority. It did not take long before we started to receive phone calls and emails from many different agencies, asking for help, once word of our new mission spread. They heard that we take animals from shelters that are full, to give the animals a second chance, and to help prevent animals from being euthanized just because there is no room. These queries came from farther and farther away, and our Cruisin' Critters vans were constantly on the road to help out shelters that were full—giving the animals we brought back to SpokAnimal a chance, and helping animal control agencies with the two things that are always in short supply: space and time. In the world of animal welfare, space and time hold not only the key to life, but the key to death as well.
One county in California that we welcome animals from euthanized 10,444 of the 37,573 dogs that entered their shelters in 2013-2014, a euthanasia rate of 28%. In 2014, our euthanasia rate for dogs was 2.66%, most of which were owner requested euthanasia. The numbers are staggering, especially when you know that each one of those numbers is a life that was cut short.
We can relate to the disheartening fact that hangs over most agencies: too many animals, and not enough room to save them all. People in the animal welfare industry don't choose it because of money or recognition, it is a calling we feel. We want to make a difference for animals, we want to save lives, we want to unite pets with people and make fur families happen. When we can't make that happen, it is a personal failure that weighs on us, and when the day is over we go home with tears in our eyes and broken hearts. The next day, we start over with the hope of saving at least one, knowing the heartache is worth it because the animals that need us deserve it.
Just 10 years ago, we were in the same position that many shelters continue to face every day. I remember the days in animal control when the stray animals poured through the doors, often 30 dogs and 75 cats in one day, yet only having 10 empty kennels for dogs, and even less for cats. We needed more space, more time…but never had enough. We had to make room for the incoming strays, if not by adoptions, reclaims, or transferring animals out, then by euthanizing animals. The anguish I felt, that we all felt, when we were out of space is not something I can describe. Every animal I euthanized because we needed room took a piece of me with them when they took their last breath. I did my best to make their last moments peaceful—my teammates and I would cuddle them and tell them they did nothing wrong, that we were so sorry, and we would always remember them. Time after time, life after life. I have kept my promise to each of them. They are not forgotten, and I will carry that weight for the rest of my life.
We still had hopes of getting control of those keys to life and death, control over space and time. And, just a few years later, we did! The number of strays coming in steadily declined, and the number being euthanized followed suit. 2008 was the last year we euthanized a dog because we needed space, and once our animal control contract was up, we knew exactly what we wanted to do to make a difference.
We now have the chance to not only save animals from euthanasia, but to help people that have devoted their lives to animal welfare from having to euthanize adoptable animals when they are out of room. Even though we will always help area shelters in need first, we know that pet overpopulation is a nationwide problem, a global problem. We have the ability to give animals a second chance while easing some of the strain for the people that give their lives to help animals. We are positively impacting pets and the people that love them by helping to reduce the number of lives that are lost. We are giving agencies more of those two precious commodities, more space and time, and state lines are irrelevant. In the race to end the euthanasia of homeless, unwanted, or abandoned pets, our nation still has miles to go, and we will be there to save all we can.