August 19 is National Homeless Animals Day.
The International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR)
sponsors this national event, now in it’s ninth consecutive year. ISAR
uses a single candle as the logo for Homeless Animals Day, and the
slogan “Shed light on an American Tragedy.” But a candle is not enough.
We need a floodlight. It’s time to illuminate the tragedy of euthanasia.
We must stop accepting euthanasia as a solution to the overpopulation
problem. Euthanasia is not the answer, but because there just aren’t
enough homes for them all, neither is adoption. The answer is the
spaying and neutering of America’s companion animals, strays and
surrenders. It is the only way to stop the slaughter.
Or is it? In Europe, there is no noticeable
overpopulation problem. The animal-rights activists in parts of Europe
have outlawed circuses and rodeos, veal and are working on fox-hunting.
Why? Because they can concentrate their efforts on those important
animal-rights issues. They don’t have to spend their time, money and
resources educating the public on the tragedy of overpopulation. They
can focus their energies on other issues.
Many Europeans do not approve of spay/neuter, and many
companion animals are left intact their entire lives, regardless of
whether or not they will be bred. The difference in attitudes is the
reason there are no unwanted animals in places like Germany, Austria,
Switzerland and others. The companion animals who live among the people
of those countries are very much wanted. And their culture reflects it.
It is not unusual to see dogs walking side-by-side with their human
families while shopping, dining, worshipping, attending cultural events
or hiking. Animals are encouraged and welcome everywhere. In so many
German Tierparks (zoos), the animals are not caged or surrounded by
moats, and visitors can walk among them. The areas are surrounded by
grating that people can walk over but hoofed animals cannot, which keeps
them safe and off the autobahn, out of harms way. The deer and other
animals graze contentedly while visitors sit on benches nearby, in
respectful communion. There are no big cats or bears because these
animals wouldn’t be stopped by grating on the ground. So be it.
This scene reflects the attitudes of the people of most
European countries. In Germany, France and Austria I saw purebred dogs
who were well-behaved and an obvious source of pride for their
guardians, who proudly told their stories to anyone who would listen,
(though I admit I didn’t always understand).
They don’t need to spay and neuter their animals as a
means of controlling the overpopulation problem. They may choose to do
so for the health benefits, but not to render them unable to breed. The
animals don’t run loose, they don’t breed indiscriminately and they
don’t get lost, stolen or end up in pounds. Indeed, the only pound I saw
(where I adopted my Siamese) belonged to the American Army base because
personnel would leave their animals behind rather than fly them to the
states when their tour of duty was over. This practice, so inconceivable
to the Germans that left them seething at the irresponsibility and lack
of commitment that was so obvious among Americans. (American military
personnel are exempt from the six-month quarantine rule).
Unless and until American attitudes towards companion
animals change, we may never see harmony and respect for animals. And
sadly, sterilization may always be the only way to control the
Five million animals are killed in our nations shelters
every year. That is a conservative number because we don’t get the
statistics from the small, independent rescue groups who benevolently
rescue dogs and cats and then have the sad task of sending them to be
A few years ago some safety advocates took issue with
the words “car accident”. Say what it is”, they argued, say “crash” and
say it loud. That way, people will become more aware of what it means to
drive in an unsafe manner. So now we say car crash.
I sometimes write about sterilization and get a letter
or two from animal-rights activists who don’t believe in sterilization
for different reasons. I understand that. These activists say that I
shouldn’t use the word sterilization when I mean castration, and that we
should call it what it is. Actually, the word is orchiectomy, but most
people don’t know that this means “neuter.” “Say castration”, they
argue, the idea being that people will be shocked into not doing it.
We don’t say slaughter. We say euthanasia, put to sleep,
send to the Rainbow Bridge, or giving “blue juice”. Maybe we should say
kill. We kill them. We kill five million animals in senseless slaughter.
Maybe then we can get the killing to stop.
But is the answer in semantics? Maybe. Semantics
reflects our attitudes, and it’s our attitudes that we must change.
There is a group in DC that told the AR2000 conventioneers that they are
working on a campaign to convince businesses to allow people to bring
their dogs with them on outings. They are calling this effort “Pet
Friendly” and already a major office supply store has agreed to let
people bring their dogs along to pick up office supplies. This may not
be the best start, but it is a start, and I truly understand why this is
important to our movement.
Dr. Elliott Katz (In Defense of Animals) has launched a
campaign to change the word ‘pet” to companion animal, “it” to his/her
or s/he, “owner” to guardian and stop the use of quotation marks around
an animals’ name, ie: “Fluffy”. I personally always hated that practice
but didn’t know why, but now I understand my own discomfort with that
rule. Fluffy is a being in his own right. What difference does it make
if he’s a dog, cat, pig, hamster, or human? Fluffy is Fluffy. The
quotations take away from that, a lot like the feminist argument which
brought us Ms. instead of Mrs.
I hope we all get behind these sincere efforts, and I
hope that we honor the animals who are killed every year by attending or
hosting vigils all over the United States. When our animals die, we
mourn them, we grieve for them, we get sympathy cards from our friends
which serve to keep the memory alive and validate our own loss. But
those 5 million animals don’t have a funeral, and this is their funeral.
This is their moment to tell the world they were here, mourn our loss,
for you have missed out on a beautiful friendship.
The Prayer Alliance for Animals is hosting an event in
South Florida to honor Homeless Animals Day. If you would like to host
an event, contact ISAR at International Society for Animal Rights to get
information on this very important event.
Go on to What You Can
Do To Fight Animal Cruelty
Return to 13 August 2000 Issue
Return to Newsletters
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