Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment
October 11, 2006
In order to reduce the number of unwanted animals in Northern Nevada, animal services supervisors agree on two things – it will take education of the pet owner and sterilization of the animals for this to happen.
The number of animals being “put to sleep” is not declining despite a Nevada law (NRS 574.605) that went into effect in 1997 requiring all pets in shelters be altered before an adoption concludes.
“The problem is pet owners don’t adopt for life,” said Pat Wiggins, Carson City Animal Services supervisor. “It all comes down to public education.”
In 2005, Carson City Animal Services euthanized 566 animals. Of the 566, feral or diseased cats accounted for 418. Others were at owner request.
“Late spring until fall is breeding time for animals,” Wiggins said. “We’ll get five to seven momma cats with their litters in one day. All shelters are overrun with cats during this time.”
The increase in human population in Nevada brought with it an increase in the number of pets. Unaltered males that roam free can impregnate several females in one night.
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Lyon County Animal Services Supervisor Ted Bolzle is frustrated at the lack of human responsibility, particularly with dog owners.
“Animal ownership is a responsibility – not an entitlement,” Bolzle said. “It’s not fair to the animal if it is not cared for. We want our dogs to go to good homes.”
Bolzle said that is the reason they have a screening process for potential pet owners. If they are unsure of the care the animal will receive or are uncomfortable with the reasons a person gives for adopting a pet, they will refuse the applicant. Bolzle said his office finds litters of puppies abandoned in the desert or dead on the road and scratches his head at the reasons pet owners do not spay or neuter their dog. Lyon County takes in 1,300-1,400 dogs a year – most of them dumped on side roads.
“For the men, it’s like a masculinity thing,” he said. “I think they personalize it and think, ‘that’s not gonna happen.’ And for the women, they want their children to witness the miracle of birth.”
Bolzle suggests renting a video, and echoes other animal services supervisors that education is the key to responsible pet ownership. Each agency offers advice and written information on pet care.
“It’s difficult to teach responsibility to the people, mostly because they don’t know the law for the state or county they live in,” he said.
Most counties in Nevada require dogs be licensed and current on rabies vaccinations. Churchill and Pershing counties do not require dogs be licensed.
“Many people think if their dog has its rabies vaccine, it’s licensed because they get this little tag,” Bolzle said. “The vaccine is not a license. We try to make it easy on the pet owner by making licenses available in Silver Springs, at the Dayton substation, in Yerington, online or by mail. And it only costs $25. For senior citizens, we waive the fee.”
An added benefit is the license fee for a sterilized pet – $1.
“We take into consideration the cost of pet ownership in addition to responsibility,” Bolzle added. “But if you can’t afford to have the pet spayed or neutered, and have difficulty paying the license, and can’t afford medical care for the dog, at what point can the person be financially responsible to have a dog?”
“We educate before we regulate,” said Wiggins. “One cat can have six kittens, which can breed at six months, having six more kittens, and so on.”
Fewer animals in Northern Nevada have been euthanized through the efforts of nonprofit animal adoption agencies such as Douglas Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation, Dog Town Canine Rescue, the Pet Network and SPCA.
Volunteers with DAWG help at the Douglas County Animal Shelter 365 days a year.
“Our euthanization numbers have gone down and I’d like to think it’s because of sterilization,” said John Respess, animal services and care supervisor for Douglas County. “We are fortunate we have responsible pet owners.
“Sterilization is a good thing in my point of view. It keeps the number of unwanted pets down, and DAWG is the main reason we adopt out rather than euthanize.”
Respess said DAWG volunteers, walk, socialize and train dogs seven days a week at the shelter, with several volunteers working each day.
“The volunteers are very committed and they hold fundraisers and try to educate the public when they’re out. DAWG uses its funds to pay for spay and neutering. Their partnership plays a key role in adoptions.
“My point is, adoption is a key commitment. Dogs need care and interaction and it’s up to the pet owner to supply it.
“Some people won’t neuter because they say it will kill the dog’s spirit, or they want their child to experience the miracle of birth. I don’t want to condemn them for their choice, but, it’s just not right.”
Through adoption, Douglas County Animal Care and Services has not euthanized an adoptable cat in four years. Lyon County has not put a dog down in two years; Carson City put down no cats in 2005, and only one adoptable dog.
“With trap, neuter and release programs and euthanasia failing to limit the amount of feral cats, we continue to look for solutions for our community and we will stay proactive in working with reputable rescue groups to find homes for more pets,” Wiggins said.
• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1223.
By the numbers
Animals Adopted (agency) (2005)
Carson City Animal Services 414 dogs 355 cats
Douglas County Animal Shelter 272 dogs 92 cats
Lyon County Animal Services 528 dogs 0 cats
CCAS 117 dogs* 449 cats**
DCAS 0 8
LCAS 384* 0
* includes by owner request; feral/aggressive; sick/injured; adoptable
** “A large number and on the rise”
NRS 574.605 “Agreement for sterilization” defined
“Agreement for sterilization” means the written contract between a new owner and the releasing agency from which the new owner adopts a pet, in which the new owner agrees to have the pet sterilized. (Added to NRS by 1997, 2553)
Where to adopt
Carson City Animal Services
3770 Butti Way
Douglas County Animal Care & Services
921 Pinenut Road
Lyon County Animal Services
3705 Highway 50 West
Douglas Animal Welfare Group (DAWG)
Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation
Dog Town Canine Rescue