Food For Thought

Responsible Breeding, Ownership, Government 

by Don Marro, Contributing Writer

Don Marro

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 instead.

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 goal-setting.

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 colonies.

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 feral colonies.

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.

The answer?

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 indifference.

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 abandonment prosecutions.

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 Commonwealth.

Donald Marro is co-founder of Virginia Voters for Animal Welfare. For more information on this organization, visit the Web site at

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor.  Mail will be forwarded to the author.




Home ] Up ] Cover Story ] Down Home ] Reader Recipes ] [ Food For Thought ] Cooperative Citizen ] Editorial ]