Not all communities are created equal. Many aspects of life are different in the south. One of those revolves around treatment of, and care for, animals. Fewer cats and dogs are spayed or neutered in some southern states like Virginia, especially in or around rural communities. Cats are especially bad for the environment because they’re nature’s little serial killers. How can we keep stray animals off the streets and out of shelters?
One of the most obvious answers is through increased regulation. Spaying or neutering pets is the only way to ensure populations don’t skyrocket out of control, which is something already happening around the country. These pets are much more likely to belong to owners who also keep them outdoors the majority of the time, which means they’re also far more likely to reproduce. When pets multiply, they’re left behind. Spaying or neutering pets should be mandatory.
Another way to help keep pets safe and secure in the loving hands of an actual pet owner is to create awareness about shelters and pet populations. Take Debra Griggs, for example, a resident of Norfolk, Virginia. When she found a small stray dog in 1998, her first instinct was to bring it to an animal shelter for safety. After speaking with the management at several, she realized this was tantamount to a likely death sentence.
Griggs said, “As I began to talk to shelters, I realized the chances of that dog getting out alive was less than 50 percent.”
She eventually found a home for the dog, but realized she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t do something to help solve the problem.
“My heart opened up to the unconditional love that pets give us only later to find out the majority of them were losing their lives in public shelters. I had to go work on that,” she said.
Griggs went on to establish Animal Resources of Tidewater in 1999. Based in Norfolk, it provides many services to the community’s stray pet population, including one program that traps stray cats and dogs to safely spay or neuter before releasing them. The nonprofit also provides support to pet owners who can’t afford medical treatments for their ailing pets, which is one of the biggest reasons why pet owners send their animals to shelters. The rate of euthanasia for these pets is close to 100 percent.
Griggs added, “We provide veterinary care to pets whose owners could not afford it and would surrender their animal to a shelter. We believed if you paid for the care, the animal stayed in its home, which is better for the animal and the family and kept the animal out of the shelter….In [the] early days, we saved in excess of 2,000 dogs and cats.”
But she didn’t feel she was making an impact until much later down the road. But eventually, those programs paid off. In fact, the pet save rate rose from the aforementioned 50 percent to 71 percent by 2015. It had risen even further to 82 percent in 2019.