Don’t write off people surrendering their pets to shelters

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From NYTimes.com: A volunteer at Animal Care and Control of NYC, with Bricky, an owner surrender

The New York Times on Sunday pointed out what people in animal welfare have known for months: As the economy slips, even the most well-meaning owners are being forced to give up their pets.

The article contains some great comments from Petfinder’s founder,
Betsy Saul, and spotlights the incredible work done by the shelter
where I volunteer, Animal Care and Control of New York City, and its Safety Net program.

Safety Net helps pet owners deal with the issues that are making them consider surrendering their pet: Behavior problems, allergies, the cost of veterinary care, landlord concerns and, increasingly, finding temporary foster care for pets whose owners are in crisis.

It’s easy to feel anger toward owners who surrender their pets to shelters, and the instinct for many animal lovers (including this one) is to write off that person and focus on helping the pet.


But when it comes down to it, to really help animals, we have to work
with people — and remind ourselves that the owners we see dropping
their pets off at the shelter are the good guys, the ones who are not
dumping their pet on the street to fend for herself or abandoning her
in an empty apartment.

While some of the owners I see surrendering their pets at the AC&C appear cruelly blase, even more are devastated — numb or in tears. The Times article describes Sadie Judge, a 50-year-old college professor who became ill and lost her job and her apartment:

“I kept saying, ‘At least I’ve got my kitty cats,’” Ms. Judge said.
But in early September, without her permission, she said, her
roommate’s boyfriend took her four cats, Michael, Michelle, Molly and
Gunzu, to Animal Care and Control, on East 110th Street between First
and Second Avenues.

Ms. Judge said that after learning from her
niece where her cats had been taken, she was told that she had 24 hours
to get them out or they would be put up for adoption. But she had
nowhere to take them. She was in tears when she happened to look up and
see the Safety Net poster. Within two days, her cats were in two
separate foster homes, and she hopes to get them back when she finds
permanent housing.

As hard as it is, we have to remind ourselves that most people would rather keep their pets, and that by helping them, we can keep the pets from being traumatized, getting sick and possibly being euthanized in shelters.

The amazing volunteers at Safety Net are able to remember that, and in my opinion, that makes them heroes. If you live in the NYC area and want to volunteer with Safety Net, visit their Web site to find out how.

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