We need responsible guardianship

Guest columnist Cristen Williams is right about one thing: “Feral” cats are just like the cats who share our homes. That’s exactly why they do not deserve to be dumped on the streets to fend for themselves.

Cats who are left outdoors face daily battles against the elements, parasites, infections, deadly contagious diseases, speeding cars, predators on two legs and four, and more. Many die a decade sooner than they would if they had lived indoors—and their deaths are often violent and painful.

Implementing shelter policies that promote abandonment is no solution to the issue of animal homelessness. Just one year after San Antonio’s shelter began so-called “no-kill” policies, the bodies of 16,000 dogs and 12,000 cats who were killed by cars had to be scraped off the city’s streets. An animal control officer aptly described their inhumane deaths as “euthanasia by proxy.”

Conditions for animals inside facilities that pass such policies are often cruel, too. Recently, volunteers at Austin’s city shelter urged city leaders not to require the shelter to achieve a 95% “live release” rate because, “[c]onditions at the shelter, for both humans and animals, continued to deteriorate,” with animals reportedly caged for months or years, denied exercise, and hastily adopted for little or no fee.

Dumping domestic animals outdoors and implementing other policies to keep animals out of shelters might make statistics look appealing, but it does so at animals’ expense. It’s also a violation of Texas’ penal code, which forbids abandoning an animal in one’s custody.

Animals aren’t numbers, they’re individuals who rely on us for protection. The humane way to prevent animal homelessness is by requiring responsible guardianship, including spaying and neutering, and helping residents overcome obstacles like lack of transportation and funding to get their companions sterilized.

Teresa Chagrin
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

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