In the last couple of days, intake at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter has skyrocketed. On Monday and Tuesday alone, they took in about 250 animals.

Our normal intake for one day at this shelter averages around 60 animals, which is still WAY TOO HIGH. That means, using these averages, that about 6 days worth of animals arrived in just two days. We don’t know why the shelter is getting slammed at this hideous rate, but we know that we have a serious problem. The shelter is full. To be precise, it’s currently about 10% over its normal capacity.

When the shelter is full, animals die.

That is the bottom line. It’s not the shelter’s fault. It’s not the fault of the management company or the employees or the volunteers. It’s damn sure not the fault of the dogs or cats. It is entirely the fault of an irresponsible, uncaring sector of the population that treats animals as disposable.

Right now, we have two problems. First, we need to save as many of the current shelter population as we possibly can. Second, we need to try to keep this from happening over and over.

We all know what it will take to break the cycle: a massive increase in spay and neuter rates, in conjunction with a radical shift in how the local population treats animals. WAY easier said than done, but we will keep trying.

Now let’s talk about the immediate problem. There are several HUNDRED dogs and cats in immediate danger of being put to death because we are out of places to put them. I just got off the phone with the shelter director, and I do have one piece of good news. We have not YET had to euthanize for space. There were enough adoptions, rescues, fosters, and return to owners today that we bought some time for all the animals currently in the shelter.  But if there is one more day like Monday or Tuesday…the shelter cannot and will not cram animals three and four deep in the cages. That would be inhumane and dangerous. We have a temporary reprieve, but the crisis is not over.

The No Kill people would have you believe that the shelter COULD save them all if we tried harder. I’m here to tell you it’s nonsense. The shelter volunteers and employees are working tirelessly to get them out alive. They network them all over Facebook, they post them to other websites, they try to match them with rescue groups, they promote adoption, they have arranged extra adoption events this week to accomodate the sudden rush of intakes.  Our foster homes are taking in extra animals to try to free up spaces, and they are working to recruit additional fosters, too.

But the homeless dogs and cats keep coming.

Funny, I don’t see Nathan Winograd or the rest of the No Kill movement beating down our doors to help, either.

Here’s what we need to effect permanent change here in Montgomery County:

  • An increased shelter budget:  more money = more resources, including space = more lives saved. Our shelter does an amazing job with a very limited budget, but the county-assigned budget needs to keep up with the rapid growth of our population and changing standards in animal welfare. I’m tired of watching our animals get short-changed in the county budget hierarchy.
  • Improved animal welfare laws: We need to ban roadside puppy sales, and impose serious limits on breeders to prevent mills. I would also like to see spay/neuter incentives. We also need to see harsher penalties and more active prosecution of animal neglect and abuse. Some of this has to be addressed at the state level, but the active prosecution is something we have the right to demand of our district attorney.
  • Education: We need to educate, educate, educate. SO many people have pets but know nothing about their care and their needs. It’s probably too late to educate most adults, but we CAN educate children so that they grow up understanding their responsibilities to their pets. It’s why I sponsor an animal welfare group for students.

Right now, trying to save every animal that comes into the shelter system is like trying to bail out the Brazos with a Dixie cup. In a rain storm. If every metaphorical cupful equals one life saved, then we keep bailing, in honor of all the animals in all the shelters – the ones we couldn’t save.

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