08/14/2012 12:00 EDT | Updated 10/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Many Shelter Animals Face the Needle, But You Can Make a Difference


I saved a life this week, but that just wasn't good enough. Because there were 65 more lives waiting to be saved, and I couldn't get to them all.

It was a normal Monday morning this week, at least, as normal as it gets in animal rescue. Twenty-five emails overnight, with two very urgent ones: 66 cats to be euthanized at an Ontario pound, 70 dogs in peril in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

I knew what to do right away with regards to the dogs. I forwarded the urgent email to two agencies that I knew would be able to step in and help -- indeed, these agencies are so good, that they were already on the case. Which was a wonderful relief. So I turned my attention to the poor cats. Photograph after photograph of senior cats in filthy states, most looking unwell or at best, unkempt. At the bottom of the list, a youngster, named Mary -- just a little girl cat, not even a year old, curled up in a litter box in her tiny cage, looking like she was feeling quite hopeless. All scheduled for the fatal needle Tuesday morning.

As with so many other "normal mornings" in animal rescue, I quickly connected with the rescuers trying to get the 65 cats out of the local pound. There were communications problems and delays, but thankfully a few hours later, I heard they had received my correspondence, and a "hold" was put on Mary. Actually, that was a name we gave her, because at the pound, they only use numbers. It's easier not to connect with the animals that way. Her number was 87702. Eighty seven thousand, seven hundred... and... two.

Three days later, and I don't know how many urgent emails from different stakeholders involved at the animal control centre, the rescue "allowed to pull cats" from this shelter, transporters, you name it, I understand Mary will be arriving tomorrow. Note to self: purchase food, litter, a collar, visible ID and a harness, double check where the baby gates are, and book an appointment with our veterinarian poste haste.

But what of the 65 remaining cats? Well, similar to the learned helplessness experienced by most of these animals, this writer experienced her own. My shoulders sag, my heart is heavy -- I have no answers.

All I have is questions for the municipality that governs this pound: how do so many cats become strays in this area? Why does this facility have to euthanize so many -- can't they get more volunteers? Work with more rescues? Why are such high euthanization rates acceptable to this administration, like so many other animal control centers in Canada? Why, when we have such an effective example as the "Calgary Model" working beautifully for the City of Calgary (and they are willing to share it), won't municipal councils all over this country even consider implementing some of its protocols? Believe me, we've asked. We're still asking.

And further questions for regular Canadian citizens: why won't simply you spay and neuter your pets? Why do people regularly "dump" cats onto the streets? How do they give themselves permission to do this? Why are regular citizens buying from backyard breeders when there are so many facing the needle in shelters and pounds? Why?

I have no answers. All I have is (another) new foster animal. We call her Maryanycat.

Canadians, please don't breed or buy while shelter pets die; please make adoption your first option; please take the time to find out how your municipality deals with pet overpopulation. I guarantee that if you knew, you would be shocked into action. I know I was.

I saved a life this week, but it really wasn't good enough.