My wife and I just returned from visiting family in Lynchburg, Virginia, where we learned about the dire straits the local shelter is facing. A news station ran a report on the Lynchburg Humane Society which, like most shelters across the country, is facing even greater space and provisions concerns due to the current state of the economy:
People are taking animals there by the box-load and just leaving them for the Humane Society to deal with and the shelter is running out of room. It's the little ones that are suffering the most. Kittens and puppies, piled on top of one another, looking for a new home (Brian Damewood, WSET-TV).
Unfortunately, many of the cats and dogs, and especially kittens, will be put down due to overcrowding and lack of available homes (see video). In June alone, 34 dogs and 40 cats were euthanized, and my wife and I saw much more severe numbers for July when we visited. We only spent time in one cat room, which was all either of us could handle, where we saw any number of beautiful cats in small iron cages, lifelessly resigned to their fate, or occasionally perking up for the possibility of attention or maybe even freedom.
In any other environment they would be full of natural activity and flourishing, just like the pets any of us have taken. But here, like in many shelters, they are simply cast-off's awaiting their fate, which for many of them is a final blue serum when time and space have run out. Perhaps the same fate awaits the family of backyard dogs we saw dropped off, one of them flattening itself on the tiled floor when it sensed its new home.
With ever-expanding gas and food prices, downsizing and foreclosures, and jobs being lost, pets are becoming increasingly viewed by many as insupportable luxuries. This predicament has hit the poorest communities the hardest, which often struggle with stable pet ownership even in the best of times. But even middle class families are often finding themselves in an unexpected and extremely difficult position of needing to relinquish their pets. See for instance this report by the HSUS.
If you live in the Lynchburg area, or near any other shelter, please consider the needs of the animals in their care which desperately need a home. There's Patty for instance (see picture above), a darling one-year-old who relentlessly pushed her little arms through her bars just to make contact with us. You can find out more at her Petfinder page. And please be sure to tell your family and friends as well.