Let’s talk about pets.
Two dogs recently appeared on the deck peering in the window as this writer sat home missing a four-legged family member who passed away six months ago. Talk about timing.
One dog wore a collar and the other did not. It was raining and the dogs were whining. Clearly unafraid, the pooches raced into the house when the door opened for an offer of treats. After some coaxing and treats, the dogs returned to the porch and eventually left.
However, one keeps returning. She appears well fed. She lacks a collar and is spattered with Franklin County red mud. It is difficult to tell whether she is a true stray or just wandering the neighborhood.
These dogs easily could be hurt by another animal, a vehicle or even another person who might not be an animal lover.
Franklin County and Roanoke shelters have been filling up lately with strays and animals surrendered by owners. A long-standing view in some local corners holds that animals “can just run loose,” said Donna Essig, president of the Franklin County Humane Society Planned Pethood and Adoption Center.
“It is better than it was 20 years ago when I first came here,” Essig said. “Then they were killing 2,000 animals a year.”
She added she feels there has been a slight shift in the attitude toward spaying and neutering as people have learned how important it is. The latest newsletter from the Franklin County Humane Society illustrates this with a graphic that shows how one unsprayed female cat and her offspring produce an average of 2.8 surviving kittens per litter. At a rate of two litters a year, that can add up quickly, translating to 12 cats in one year, 67 cats in two years, 376 cats in three years, 2,107 in four years and so on.
The equation translates to 11.6 million cats in nine years’ time. That’s a lot of cats. Dogs can breed twice a year with litters of six to 10 puppies, so do the math on that.
While more people might be spaying and neutering their pets, there is still clearly an issue with stray animals in Franklin County.
It’s our duty as pet parents to keep our animals safe. That means keeping them in the house or yard —but not in such a way that they are chained up and forgotten about — feeding them, making sure they have fresh water, cleaning them and providing proper healthcare.
In doing these things, pet parents are in effect contributing to the welfare of the animals that are truly homeless, which means rescue groups can spend time helping find homes for animals that need them.