Friday, February 2, 2007

Kill shelter not needed

Andrea Nelson is a resident of Hailey.


Kudos to the Idaho Mountain Express for taking a stand against Bellevue Councilman Steven Fairbrother's shocking suggestion that the county use our tax dollars to build an animal pound. Fairbrother reportedly used the euphemism "county animal shelter," but facilities that kill adoptable dogs and cats that don't get adopted within some brief, arbitrary time period are not "animal shelters." Euthanasia is certainly one way to reduce pet overpopulation, but it is a cruel, backward-thinking way. Fortunately, there is a nationwide trend toward "no-kill" shelters, and Blaine County already has one: the Animal Shelter of Wood River Valley.

The Express reported that Fairbrother, a Bellevue equine veterinarian, justified his request for a county pound with economics. "We just can't afford to pick up dogs."

If Bellevue can't afford "the costs associated with capture and transportation" to the animal shelter, one must wonder what kind of pound it could afford. A couple of cages and a gas chamber? Where would it be located? And who on Earth would willingly take on the role of "valley pet executioner?" I don't think I'd dare show my face in the coffee shop once word got out. Come to think of it, if Bellevue can't afford the cost of capture and transportation, how, exactly, would it get the dogs there?

There are humane ways to make animal control more affordable to our south county cities. Clearly, a countywide contract with the animal shelter is needed—a contract that doesn't come with euthanasia strings attached. If the cost of expanding animal control services is spread throughout the county, the cost per household should be negligible. If loose dogs are causing a particular problem in Bellevue, creating and strictly enforcing fines would probably curtail it most quickly. We could address two problems at once by setting high fines for unfixed pets, then offering a substantial discount if the owner is willing to allow the animal shelter to spay or neuter the impounded pet. There are far more humane solutions than needlessly exterminating hundreds of adoptable dogs and cats.

For years, the animal shelter has offered spay-neuter clinics affordable to everyone. Thanks to the shelter's commitment and support from private donors, the spay-neuter program continues to grow. The animal shelter's intake numbers actually went down last year, and they have remained relatively steady for the past three years, even as the valley's population has increased. That's encouraging.

Like me, hundreds of families in this valley own or have owned a beloved former animal shelter pet. We know that the value in a dog or cat is not found in its pedigree, nor in its ability to hunt or to herd, although it may do those things well. On average, most shelter dogs spend a month to a few months there before finding adoptive families. If Blaine County had a pound in place instead of the animal shelter, most of our dogs would have been killed long before we found them.

Abandoned and neglected pets are not garbage. Let's not dispose of them as if they were.

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