PCT for Pets: An adventure to help shelter animals nationwide...

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The Plight of Shelter Animals

Banner climbing a willow tree!
Every year in the United States, between 8-12 million animals enter shelters.  This includes dogs, cats, and other animals, and these shelter intakes are about evenly divided between animals that are surrendered to the shelters by their owners and strays that are picked up by animal control workers.  Every year, 5-9 million shelter animals are euthanized, including 60% of the dogs and 70% of the cats that enter shelters.

At the same time, of about 60 million dogs and 75 million cats owned in the United States, 10-20% are adopted from shelters and pet rescue organizations.  Thus, shelters perform a vital service in curbing the number of animals that enter shelters and must eventually be euthanized.*

Animal shelters have the most difficulty, in general, adopting male, teenage (2-3 years old) animals, because males are perceived to be more aggressive and troublesome, and teenage animals (just like teenage humans!) have a host of normal behavioral issues that require a great deal of patience, love, and training to overcome.  Incidentally, teenage animals are also among the most common animals surrendered to shelters, for the same reason that they tend to possess these normal (but unexpected by their owners) behavioral issues.  Banner is one such 3-year-old teenage male dog with a host of behavioral issues, stemming not only from the fact that he is a teenager, but also from his history of abandonment.

Understanding the Debate

There is a huge amount of information about the plight of shelter animals on the Internet.  If you choose to delve into this topic, it is important to understand that this issue is riddled with political controversy, just like many other important issues in our society.  It is not my intent to support any particular political agenda with PCT for Pets.  I simply wish to raise awareness about the fact that millions of neglected, abused, and abandoned animals enter shelters every year and many of these animals are put to death when homes cannot be found for them.  Despite the diversity of political views on animal shelters, a majority of individuals and organizations does seem to feel that this is a tragic situation which should be rectified.  However, there tends to be vehement disagreement about how to rectify the plight of shelter animals.  Although I do not generally like to simplify the world into dichotomies, I would like to briefly describe the two main points of view which you will discover if you begin researching this issue, keeping in mind that there are also many variations on these two philosophies:

Animal Welfare:  In general, supporters of animal welfare believe that human beings have a responsibility to treat animals humanely.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines animal welfare as, "a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, human handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia."  As long as an animal's well-being is tended to, this philosophy believes that it is acceptable to use animals for food, clothing, medical research, product testing, education, recreation, entertainment, and companionship.  However, not all animal welfare advocates and organizations necessarily believe that all of these human uses of animals are acceptable.  In addition, there is much debate about what is meant by an animal's "well-being."  Animal rights advocates will often claim that the term "animal welfare" has been usurped in some cases by groups (such as large agribusiness companies) that wish to appear publicly concerned about the well-being of animals while in reality continuing with established inhumane practices.

Foundation for Animal Use Education: The Animal Welfare Philosophy
(Note that this site has a bias towards animal welfare)

Marci's Menagerie: Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare
(Note that this site has a bias towards animal welfare)

Animal Rights:  The fundamental tenet of animal rights is that all animals possess intrinsic rights equal to the rights of human beings.  Often, the beliefs of animal rights advocates go beyond the idea that animals should be treated humanely to the assertion that humans should eliminate all use of animals for food, clothing, medical research, product testing, education, recreation, entertainment, and even companionship.  Many animal welfare advocates have accused animal rights groups (such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Liberation Front) of engaging in terrorist activities (e.g. arson) and having a "hidden agenda" to eliminate all human use of animals (including as pets) while using the guise of animal welfare to garner support and funding from the general public which does not generally support their extreme beliefs.  Thus, both sides of the debate tend to accuse the other of "political doublespeak," and it becomes difficult for one (like myself) who merely wishes to do some good for shelter animals to know where to direct one's support.

The Animal Rights FAQ: Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare
(Note that this site has a bias towards animal rights)

Being aware of the diversity of opposing and overlapping philosophies regarding animal rights and animal welfare can help you to untangle the web of arguments you will find if you start to research the plight of shelter animals in the United States.  Banner and I have settled on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as the beneficiary of our PCT for Pets adventure because we believe that this organization does a great deal of work to directly benefit shelters and shelter animals around the country.  If you don't agree, we have also provided the option of donating directly to our Sponsoring Shelters or to any other animal shelter of your choice.

And thank you to those who have helped me to better understand the debate...

* Statistics provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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