There are always numerous puppies, kittens, dogs and cats at local animal shelters in need of good homes.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
For anyone who has been considering adopting a dog, maybe October is the month to stop talking about it and actually to do it.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Kenai Animal Shelter celebrate October as Adopt A Shelter Dog Month.
Each year, approximately 8-12 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide and approximately 5-9 million are euthanized (60 percent of the dogs and 70 percent of the cats).
The adopt-a-shelter dog campaign with the theme "Every Dog Counts" hopes to change those statistics by joining together to raise awareness about dogs in need of adoption.
"Nothing adds more warmth to a home or offers a better greeting after a hard day's work like a wagging tail and a pair of big brown eyes," said Edwin Sayres, president and CEO of the ASPCA.
At the Kenai Animal Shelter, there are a diversity of dogs to choose from.
"There are always many breeds, sizes and ages of dogs, just waiting to join a family, and the majority of them would make great pets," said Bill Godek, chief animal control officer at the shelter.
Godek added that adoptions also help the euthanasia rate since the Kenai Shelter, like nearly every other shelter in the country, rarely adopts out more dogs than they are forced to put down.
In regard to dogs being turned over or abandoned, 2005 started out as a bad year at the Kenai shelter as they were flooded with people bringing in unplanned and unwanted litters.
In the months that followed they received roughly 100-180 animals per month, and had taken in more than 1,000 animals by July.
"It's been a real heavy year for us," Godek said.
The tide started to turn in August, as the shelter set a new record for adoptions in one month.
"We adopted out 80 in August a new high, and 52 of them were cats," Godek said.
The former record for most adoptions in one month had been just above 70 dogs and cats.
Godek said he hopes this trend will continue, but he is leery because October through December is typically when the shelter's rates for animals surrendered or abandoned begins to climb again.
"October is when they start getting dumped. People will start leaving the state and, unfortunately, leaving their pets behind," he said.
"We're already running full tilt on dogs and are deluged with cats, too," Godek added.
The pet overpopulation is an acute problem in Alaska, according to Godek, as he was recently reminded when someone from the Human Society of the United States visited the shelter and made a startling discovery.
"After looking at our numbers, they said in a year, we handle as many dogs here as cities in Lower 48 states with populations of 100,000 people," Godek said.
A few of the dogs at the shelter are pure breeds and many are mixed-breed dogs. Godek said most of the mixes are Labrador mixes, so the vast majority of dogs at the shelters have the personality traits of America's most popular breed.
"The predominant breed we see here is Lab-mix. We see hundreds and a lot of them, even though mixed, look just like they were pure bred.
"We see the best personalitied dogs you've ever seen. Most of them are already socialized and spayed or neutered. A lot of them are young dogs that just need a family," he said.
There also are typically numerous husky, rottweiler and pit bull mixes available at the Kenai Animal Shelter. In regard to the latter two breeds, Godek said most all he comes across are good-natured dogs despite the bad reputations.
Godek added that a few dogs that come in may be shy, but its often only initially. The dogs are just scared and confused in the tumultuous goings-on of shelter life, he said.
Once given time away from the kennel hubbub and a scratch or two behind the ears, most warm right up to their new owners.
"They may be scared at first, but they turn around quickly," Godek said.
During October, the cost to adopt a dog is reduced as part of the campaign. As opposed to the usual $103.95 fee, the fee this month is $88.20, which is to offset the cost of a rabies vaccine and the surgery to spay or neuter the dog. A parvo-distemper vaccine also is given free of charge.
Although their is no substitution for seeing the dog and their personality firsthand, the shelter is on the Internet and available pets can be viewed through the petfinder.com Web site. Pets are updated every Sunday.
For more information, contact the Kenai Animal Shelter by calling 283-7353.
Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at email@example.com.
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