COMMENTARY: No-kill animal shelter opening in Upper Valley

COMMENTARY / Keely Lewis
Sunday, March 13, 2016

A new no-kill animal shelter is opening in the upper Valley in a few weeks, a state-of-the-art facility that will be one of the finest single-building shelters in the nation. The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center off of I-69 at Rogers Road will enable the existing Palm Valley Animal Center to find homes for hundreds more adoptable animals each year. This generates a lot of excitement among animal lovers who see the new Center as a much-needed addition to address the Valley’s animal control crisis.

With room for 80 dogs, 50 cats, and even some exotics, the new Center will be a welcoming place for those looking for a healthy pet to add joy to their lives. PAWS stands for Pet Adoption and Wellness Services, and the Center will have a full-time veterinarian on-site to take care of the Center’s animals. The campus even includes dog parks for both large and small dogs that will be open to the public. We hope that having a thriving adoption setting will help boost the number of animals saved.

But finding forever homes for adoptable animals is only part of the solution. The other crucial part is each Valley citizen helping to prevent the unwanted animals in the first place by spaying and neutering their pets and encouraging their friends and neighbors to do the same. It doesn’t require much time. The RGV Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic offers an affordable option. Plus a neutered dog or cat stops undesirable behaviors and becomes more affectionate and willing to stay home. Everybody wins.

If only everybody could embrace this logical remedy. On average, PVAC takes in 93 animals a day, 365 days of the year. Some are turned in by individuals, but a majority of them come from the county and surrounding cities that are trying to insure public health and safety. And those are just the animals turned in.

Anyone who drives Valley roads knows that there are thousands more out there, desperately searching for food or meeting a violent end on a busy roadway. Almost every time I drive Monte Cristo, I see one more casualty. A majority of these animals are a direct result of their original owners choosing not to spay or neuter, then letting the animals run free. It’s such an avoidable crisis.

Of the 33,641 animals turned in to our shelter last year, 2,171 of them were adopted, an all-time record. Some found foster homes until they were old enough or well enough to be adopted, but foster space is limited. More than 1,100 were transported, at great cost, to shelters up north to increase their chances of adoption. Many were humanely euthanized due to illness or injury, some because of aggressive behavior. Still others were humanely euthanized due to the lack of space and the recognition that a life spent in a shelter kennel isn’t the quality of life they deserve.

Approximately 24% of the dogs and puppies in 2015 found homes. Only 8% of cats and kittens did. Those percentages have doubled in the last five years, but we have a long way to go. Certainly, the new shelter will help boost these numbers. But when it comes to the math of the Valley’s stray animal overpopulation, we desperately need to see less multiplication.

The economics are staggering as well. The average cost to care for an animal that comes through our doors is $100, and usually the cost of vaccinations and preparing them for adoption far exceeds that. Presently, we charge the cities $70 for each animal brought in by animal control and nothing for citizen drop-offs.

In a perfect world, these animals are healthy and sociable, and someone adopts them within 30 days. In reality, many of them need veterinary care and rehabilitation before they can be considered for adoption. It’s an expensive process, saving these innocent lives.

In the new facility, any dog or cat going up for adoption will be pre-emptively spayed or neutered. Those who adopt puppies and kittens will be required to bring them back for surgery when they’re old enough. At least we can end that vicious cycle for the ones that we encounter.

The animals who make it to Palm Valley Animal Center are the lucky ones. They at least have hope to be reclaimed by their owners or adopted. Those that are sick or wounded can be saved from needless suffering by a caring staff. Their Standard Operating Procedures Manual states that euthanasia is the final act of kindness that can be shown an animal and that each one should be handled with respect and sensitivity, protected from stress, fear, discomfort, and pain. The technicians are instructed to keep their voices low. Classical music plays in the background. Dogs are offered one last treat. It’s as humane a process as possible, under the circumstances.

I know the decision to humanely euthanize any animal is an emotional and heart-wrenching one for the staff members involved. The new no-kill shelter will save the lives of thousands of unwanted and abandoned animals, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone instead made the decision to neuter and spay?

Keely Lewis is Secretary of the Board of Directors of Palm Valley Animal Center/The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center.

Originally printed by The Monitor, to view original click HERE

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