From Cary Bernstein, executive director of Spay Neuter Charlotte:
In 2003, The Charlotte Observer published a groundbreaking series of investigative stories titled Death at the Pound that examined public policy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and surrounding counties that led to the killing of more than 80,000 cats and dogs annually.
Among its findings were that Charlottes Animal Care and Control, the regions largest and best-funded shelter, killed about 70 percent of the animals that enter its doors a per-capita rate that was more than twice the national average at the time. The percentages were much higher at shelters in nearby counties, according to the story.
Unbelievably, there has been little progress toward alleviating this appalling situation in the nearly 10 years since these stories ran. Animal Care and Control still kills an average of more than 800 healthy cats and dogs every month, some 11,000 annually. This policy is not something of which we as a community should be proud. Its inhumane.
Luckily, this is one of the few civic problems that is completely solvable. More than 200 communities across the country many with far fewer resources than ours found the solution. In fact, Richmond, Va., hasnt killed a healthy animal in 10 years.
It begins with a public declaration to make ours a no-kill community, backed by a concerted and balanced effort to deliver adequate spay and neuter services along with adoption of animals.
Here are the steps Charlotte would need to take to join these communities:
• More spay neuter. This is the reason that I founded Spay Neuter Charlotte, a non-profit with a mission to provide high quality low-cost spay and neuter services. Our goal is to make it affordable for every pet owner to have their pet fixed. Its a simple formula: Fewer animals being born leads to fewer without homes that are eventually killed.
• More adoption. Residents in search of pets should be encouraged to consider adopting first, from Animal Care and Control, the Humane Society and local rescue groups.
• Advocacy. We need to tell our elected leaders and government officials that we want our tax dollars used not for exterminating healthy animals, but for sustainable, long-term and humane solutions for this challenge.
• Regional sanctuary. There will always be animals that cant be adopted because of behavior, health or other issues. A sanctuary is a must for a comprehensive plan for a no-kill community.
• Education and training. Pet owners surrender or abandon their dogs and cats for many reasons. Appropriate education and support will enable owners to solve the problem and keep their pets in their homes.
Although these steps might sound complicated and costly, most are not. Richmond became no kill within two years of launching its plan.
Charlotte faces many challenges, but I believe this is one we must confront. When an innocent and healthy dog or cat is allowed to be killed because of lack of space at the shelter, our humanity is diminished.
Those of us who care need to join forces, speak up, and take the steps necessary to stop this senseless killing. It is about more than animal welfare. Making Charlotte a no kill community will make Charlotte a more humane community. Isnt that where youd like to live?
If you care, sign the online petition at www.spayneutercharlotte.org or on the Spay Neuter Charlottes Facebook page.