What is the value of a pet’s life? Are they just place holders to be discarded when they become inconvenient? No, they are not, says Krystal Duran.
“First of all, if someone’s going to adopt an animal or get an animal, they should be ready to deal with the nuisances,” Duran said. “A lot of people don’t realize the hard work that goes into raising an animal.”
Duran, an 18-year-old Kenai Central High School senior, is organizing a community-wide big band swing dance and silent auction at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Kenai Peninsula Community Care Center, 320 South Spruce Street in Kenai. She hopes to raise $2,000 for Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski.
She hopes also to raise awareness, she said.
In 2012, Kenai Animal Control euthanized 436 animals, according to its annual report. In total, it processed 1,631 animals that year, mostly dogs and cats. One hundred one were dead on arrival.
Soldotna Animal Control handled about 338 animals in 2012, also mainly dogs and cats, Animal Control Officer Marianne Clark said. Of the total, 168 were euthanized.
“It’s unfair to the shelter people to be the ones blamed for being the person to euthanize the animals,” Clark said.
She said the shelters have no choice. If an animal is hurt badly or if it is dangerous, they often have to be put down.
Also, pet owners turn in animals for euthanasia because they no longer want them, she said.
Dog adoption rates rise in spring and summer when children get out of school, college students return home or cannery workers seek summer-time companions, she said.
But, come fall, many animals are dropped back off, she said. Those that cannot find homes are eventually put down.
Other neglected or abused animals — dogs mostly — starve chained to posts in yards or freeze over the winter, said Tim Colbath, co-owner of the animal sanctuary in Nikiski.
A red flag in the spring, he said, is the malnourished “walking skeleton.”
In an average year, he said, his sanctuary receives about 100 dogs and cats, since they stopped accepting puppies and litters of kittens in 2007.
But “handling the animals is the easy part,” Collbath said. “It’s the public education that’s the hard part.”
The best way to solve the problem is by raising awareness, he said, exactly what Duran is doing.
“In a lot of ways, it’s like child abuse,” he said. “The only way the situation gets brought out into the daylight is from lending a hand. … The best thing the community can do is not turn a blind eye.”
To bring that about, the issue needs to be made personal, Duran said. That is what changed it for her, she said.
“There was this one day when I went to take my friend Tasha to work,” she said.
When she pulled in front of her friend’s work, in the parking lot, there was a dog, she said. No owners were in sight, and the dog was thin and nervous, she said.
So she walked up to it, but it whimpered and skittered off, she said.
It was obvious the dog was hungry and abused, she said. “It was pretty sad,” she said.
Finally she coaxed the dog into her car and took it home. “And he was so loving once he came to trust us,” she said.
Later, because her family could not keep the dog, she gave it to her friend, who had another dog. But unfortunately, she said, her friend’s dog disagreed with the new canine, so he took it to the pound.
“That made it personal for me,” she said.
If all pet owners felt that way, they would be reluctant to neglect, abuse or forfeit their animals to the pound, she said.
“‘Oh, it doesn’t affect me directly, so I don’t care,’” she said about how some people may think. “But once you have that personal experience with it, it really opens up your eyes.”
Duran’s dance will begin at 5 p.m. with Bob Bird dance lessons. After lessons, dancing will last from 6-8 p.m. Admission is $6 per person, $10 per couple or $20 per family up to six members.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.