Puppies and kittens are adorable. Nearly everyone wants to carry one home. They grow into good companions.
But there's a problem: Overpopulation produces multitudes of cast-off pets -- more than the number of available homes -- and many unwanted animals suffer and die on the loose, unless they are caught by humane officers.
Figures from the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association tell a dismal story: In January, the shelter near Yeager Airport received 518 stray animals, and only 29 were reclaimed by their owners. About one-third, 179, were adopted into new homes. But a sad total of 255, mostly sick or injured and unadoptable, had to be put to sleep.
Such gloomy results continue month after month, year after year. The shelter doesn't want to be an extermination camp, but it has no choice. Nobody could build quarters large enough to house hundreds of thousands of discarded pets that would accumulate without constant elimination.
Caring people have two ways to ease this painful situation:
First, get your pets spayed or neutered so they won't generate new litters that in turn produce further litters, multiplying exponentially. We know two suburban Charleston women who feed stray cats -- and haul them to vets to be spayed at their own expense. The women perform a noble community service, unnoticed.
For modest-income pet owners, the Kanawha-Charleston shelter offers reduced-cost sterilization: male cats $30, male dogs and female cats $40, female dogs $50. The organization also holds a yearly Fur Ball fundraiser to pay for a "Big Fix" spaying program. Information can be learned by phone at 342-1576 or at a website: wvanimalshelter.com.
Second, concerned people shouldn't buy expensive pets from stores or breeders, but should adopt homeless ones -- those who need it most -- from shelters. Too many store-bought pets come from atrocious "puppy mills" that spawn litters from caged mothers kept in pathetic conditions.
If fewer people paid high prices for these pets, the puppy mill industry would shrink -- and so, eventually, would the dismal numbers of abandoned pets.
As we said, dogs and cats are lovable. Responsible folks owe them intelligent and caring treatment.