Too Many Strays

Stray dogs and feral cats are a fixture in just about any Houston neighborhood, but local animal shelters are concerned about what appears to be a rise in the number of unwanted animals Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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There are close to 20 animal shelters and animal control facilities in the Houston region and almost all of them operate at full capacity all the time. That's nothing new, it's been that way for years. But Houston Humane Society Spokeswoman Courtney Clark says more and more unwanted animals are ending up at shelters.

"In the past three months the Houston Humane Society has seen an increase in stray intake of over 32 percent compared to these past three months over the last five years. So comparing that same period, we've seen an increase of 32 percent in our intake of strays just in the past three months alone. That's something we're really concerned about and we need to focus with the Houston public on why that's happening. Why are animals being abandoned? Why are animals being brought to shelters?"

Houston doesn't have spay or neuter laws, so pet owners are left to decide for themselves if they want to get their dog or cat fixed. And let's face it, a lot of people give in to the allure of letting their pet have just one litter of tiny, adorable, fuzzy little babies. Houston SPCA Spokeswoman Heidi Brasher says that's not the best idea.

"What we say is if you think of one cat who has a litter and then those litters keep reproducing and reproducing, in a matter of three years you'll have 4,000 cats. And I don't know 4,000 people that want a cat or a kitten and you can imagine that's just starting from one cat in three years. So it's a huge number of animals out there that will be homeless unless we do something about it, unless we're responsible and spay and neuter our pets."

Brasher says on any given day there are more than 50,000 homeless animals in Houston and the surrounding areas. Every year they admit more than 35,000 animals to the shelter, and that's just one shelter. Animals come in as strays, victims of animal cruelty, lost pets and unwanted companion pets. That last category is a tough one for shelters. Clark says at the Humane Society they talk to a lot of pet owners who just weren't ready for the commitment of caring for an animal.

"We have a problem here in Houston and across the country that people bring in pets to their home without truly commiting to the full life of the pet. People believe that the shelters here in Houston are a back-up parenting plan and that's really not the case. There should be no excuse, regardless of how many shelters there are in Houston, for someone not to do their research ahead of time and make sure that a companion pet is right for them before bringing a pet home."

Clark says the main message is make sure you're ready to commit to the lifetime of the pet, have your pet spayed or neutered and if you're able, take any stray dogs or cats to the nearest shelter. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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