Breeding, Ownership, Government
Marro, Contributing Writer
Virginia has too many pets.
Too many dogs, too many cats, too many
ferrets, too many of the animal companions that are, to many, special gifts
from God. However, these same friends are, to too many others, nothing more
than sources of profit or ego, or disposables, or ways to satisfy bloodlust.
What is the fate of this excess of dogs,
cats, ferrets and other companion animals? For all too many, it is death in
pounds and “animal shelters,” very often hidden away from polite
society’s view next to landfills and garbage dumps in a telling symbol of
the indifference to these creatures and their animal-control and
shelter-tech keepers. For the others, it is a brutish existence in feral
colonies or alone, until a passing car or delinquent or disease kills them
How do you feel about spending
$40-million-plus a year in taxes to collect and kill this excess population?
How do you feel about killing no less than 150,000 dogs and cats a year, 50
percent of the excess population, simply because they are excess? How do you
feel about using gas chambers (yes, you heard right, gas chambers) not much
larger than a big suitcase that terrorize, then “euthanize” the
“excess” pets? How do you feel about the existence of feral cat colonies
where huge numbers of abandoned cats await disease and death, congregating
in these colonies until then for companionship and such food and shelter as
can be provided by caring volunteers who risk “abandonment” prosecution
(if you can believe it) for their acts of everyday compassion?
To be sure, the pet overpopulation issue
has brought forth humane societies, SPCAs, rescues, foster homes, and the
like, many good people who find homes, provide care, ease suffering, help
legislate, and try to point the way toward a solution generally, but there
aren’t enough people like this and reproduction calculus works against
them. Burnout isn’t uncommon, and sadly, “baby steps” is the mantra
some in the animal-welfare movement have had inculcated into their
But how can this be in Virginia, the
bastion of democracy and liberty, a place of religiosity and of respect for
life? How indeed.
The answer is irresponsibility,
closed-mindedness and fear.
Take a species whose survival strategy
is many big litters, breed them irresponsibly or indifferently, and you have
an excess population and feral colonies.
Take people who purchase a pet and treat
it not as a life with the full gamut of emotional responses, but as a piece
of disposable consumerism, and you have an excess population and feral
Take government too timid to impose
moral exemplars, too easily swayed by a noisy minority, and all too often
more inclined to appease than lead, and you have an excess population and
Take proportional representation, an
agricultural heritage and hunters susceptible to fearmongering extremists
warning of starting down the slippery slope of vegetarianism, and you have
an excess population and feral colonies.
And, finally, take the fear of losing
one’s farming livelihood, or more likely, losing factory farming, to
shifts in mores and custom brought on by more enlightened animal-welfare
practices, and you have an excess population and feral colonies.
Responsible breeding, responsible
ownership, and responsible government. Not to create an ideal situation, but
a workable accommodation for everyone. Let those who wish to breed do so for
improvement, competition, or for strengthening family ties by having the
family dog or cat illustrate the miracle of life, but let them do so with a
profound and complete responsibility for the lives they created. Let those
who take custody of companion animals do so with commitment and an immutable
obligation of care, not a mindset of using up and disposing. And let
government set and enforce standards of care, conduct and consequence,
collect what it needs financially, and demonstrate leadership, not
Or Virginia could continue to raid
property-tax collections to the tune of $40-million-plus annually, condone
pet licensure compliance so low it beggars imagination, and kill hundreds of
thousands, yes, hundreds of thousands, either directly by pound euthanasia
or indirectly by neglect of feral colonies and the utter absence of
Where are the heirs of Patrick Henry,
you might well ask.
But take heart. Change will happen. It
just needs to be helped along. By you, working with other good people to
promote morality, reason and responsibility in your community and our
Donald Marro is co-founder of Virginia
Voters for Animal Welfare. For more information on this organization, visit
the Web site at www.virginiavotersforanimalwelfare.com.