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Throwaway society tosses pets too
By MALEKA SHARAY
Published November 26, 2007
Recent statistics from the Humane Society of the United States show that 3-million to 4-million cats and dogs are euthanized in the United States annually. If spaying and neutering pets was mandatory and every pet owner complied, then the numbers of euthanized pets to control the pet population could be zero. If we as a society can put an end to public smoking one community at a time, then we as a humane society can surely put an end to the practice of euthanasia as a means to reduce the unwanted pet population.
I was invited to visit a nearby shelter to see firsthand what a throwaway society does to unwanted pets. Pets are relinquished for the lamest of reasons: "My dog jumps on me." Or, "my cat wants to sit on my lap."
I overheard a staff member talking to a woman who was there to relinquish her third litter of puppies. The shelter was already full of puppies and since her animals were black, they would be euthanized since most people adopt light-colored puppies.
The woman shrugged her shoulders and said that she couldn't help it if no one wanted black puppies. Then she said she couldn't keep them anyway as they were getting too big for her home. The staff member suggested the woman have her dog spayed to prevent more unwanted litters in the future.
Then, the shelter's director approached me and asked me if I wanted to witness a euthanasia. I reluctantly agreed.
We went to the back of the shelter and entered the euthanasia room. A woman stood near an examination table full of syringes and clear bottles of liquid. I felt my legs grow weak and my breathing become rapid and shallow. I wanted to run out of this room screaming, but I couldn't move. I gazed over at the dozens of dead bodies pathetically lying on top of one another in two wheelbarrows.
I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out so I just stood there and nodded as the woman told me that the animals that did not meet the evaluation criteria during the adoption process would end up here. They would be euthanized and then cremated at the end of the day.
The woman left and returned in a few moments with a little black puppy on a leash and a 3-by-5 index card in her other hand.
"You aren't going to get hysterical on me are you?" she asked. "If you do, that will only upset him even more."
I shook my head back and forth as my eyes welled with tears. I had not been able to say one word since I entered the room.
The little black puppy was excited to see me. He bounced up and down and sniffed at me. The woman lifted him up on the examination table and handed me the index card.
It was a black Lab mix, 5 months old. He had been surrendered because he jumped on the children. The dog's name was Sam and he weighed 35 pounds.
As I read the card, the woman filled a syringe with the clear liquid. She was very quick and efficient from lots of practice, I guessed. She put the puppy on his side and tied a rubber tourniquet around one of his front legs before she injected the clear liquid into his vein.
During this time, I observed the moment he went from a curious puppy to a terrified puppy. He did not like being held down and he started to struggle.
It was then that I found my voice. I bent over the struggling puppy and whispered his name.
"Sam, your name is Sam. I love you Sam," I said this over and over to Sam and, at the sound of his name, he quit struggling and wagged his tail at me attentively as his soft pink tongue darted in and out of his mouth.
He licked my hands while I caressed his face and that is how Sam spent his last moments alive. I watched his eyes fade from hopefulness to nothingness in an instant. It was all over with very quickly and I had not even noticed when he had been given his lethal injection.
My tears could no longer be contained. I kept my head down so as to not embarrass myself in front of the stoic woman. My tears fell onto Sam's still body.
"Now you know," the woman softly said and then she turned away.
No amount of statistics could take the place of seeing the reality of what a throwaway attitude in our society does to the living, breathing animal.
Maleka Sharay is a freelance writer living in New Port Richey.