Newsletter - Animal Writes © sm
13 August 2000 Issue

National Homeless Animals Day
By [email protected]

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 overpopulation problem.

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 “slept.”

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
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