By Dina Douglas Takouris
Many beautiful cats, dogs, rabbits and others are awaiting loving homes at all city and county shelters.
“I am your responsibility,” is the poignant reminder on the plaque on a kennel wall at East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys. One wonders how many even pause to glance at it.
Last year, 85,000-odd animals have passed through the doors of the six Los Angeles City Shelters: small, large, purebreds, young/ old, all breeds and species. There are the strays; some accidentally lost, others deliberately turned loose to fend for themselves. But most are owner-surrendered, dumped on an overburdened system because of a “move,” “landlord,” or “too much money or trouble.” Whatever the excuse, the reason remains the same: they want neither the pet nor the responsibility for finding it a new home on their own.
The booking technician carefully explains that their four-legged friend can be euthanized if he becomes ill, the shelter becomes overcrowded or if the pet remains unadopted. Most, however, simply sign the paper and walk out, leaving their frightened and confused pet without a backward glance.
The public perception is that a shelter is where an animal goes to die. Few see the effort expended to help these abandoned and unwanted animals live. Some shelter employees take their own time to socialize and train these animals to make them more adoptable. Other employees and outside volunteers foster the ill, the injured and the tiny babies until they are ready for adoption.
In the last 3 years, LA City has constructed six new, larger and modern shelters. But no lasting progress can or will occur unless there is a change in public awareness and attitude of the animal overpopulation issue and willingness to accept individual responsibility for their own pets.