The floors are damp and grey, the walls are peeling with yellow soil marks at the corners, and the air smells of heated urine and wet dog. I have been in many shelters that look and smell like this. The Montgomery County Animal Shelter in Houston is packed full of homeless cats and dogs.
There are three full rooms of puppies, medium-sized dogs, and adult, large dogs. There is one full room filled with rows of caged cats, reaching from the bottom of the walls to the top of the ceiling. Most of these cats have forgotten how to walk because of the long amounts of time they have spent here. There are some cats that have been there for years without walking on the ground.
There is a room filled with sick dogs, and another room filled with sick cats. They have just enough room to place small kittens in birdcages in the hallway.
The shelter just does not have enough money, help, or time to give attention to these creatures. They just have enough to provide minimal medical treatment and space.
• The United States has around four million homeless animals put down each year, which is one every eight seconds.
• Out of these animals, 60 percent are dogs and 70 percent are cats.
• 5 million to 6 million animals are placed in animal shelters every year.
• Only 10 percent of the animals that enter the shelters are spayed or neutered.
• Five out of ten dogs and seven out of ten cats are destroyed just because shelters could not find homes for them.
• Only 10 to 20 percent of cats and dogs are purchased from animal shelters.
Shelters do not receive enough money to provide these animals with a decent chance.
Norman, Oklahoma, has passed a bill that calls for a new animal shelter to be built in Norman. Citizens voted for this on November eighth.
I have been in shelters that resemble the current Norman animal shelter. They are too small, and they are extremely filthy. Diseases spread quickly because of this. Dogs and cats are packed on top of each other, whether sick or healthy. They don’t get baths, and they sleep in their feces and urine. The Norman animal shelter has a problem with their drainage system so its facility has a bigger excrement problem.
The new shelter promises to erase these problems: cleaner environment equals healthier pets. Taxpayers will help pay for this by contributing a small price for only five years. The facility will help diminish sick pets that come through the shelter. This will help the community by offering healthy, adoptable pets to Norman’s citizens.
Many people agree with this new bill. Some do not. But I believe the citizens who do not see the need for the shelter have not been in the shelter to begin with. The money will not be used to simply “re-paint” the building. It will make it a safer place where homeless pets can live until they are adopted out. This in turn will help stop diseases from being spread and diminish useless euthanasia: like putting to death an entire animal shelter because of diseases.
It would be nice to see a shelter that is big enough to allow cats to roam and stretch their legs, and where dogs can have a fenced-in area outside where they can let out some energy. This type of environment works better for animals in shelter situations. I have seen this first hand. The shelter I volunteer for provides a lot of space for their animals. The animals appear so much happier than the ones who live in the Norman shelter.
The shelter I volunteer for is a perfect definition of a shelter. All the cats here have a huge room to walk around in, they have a gated area outside that they can walk out to through a cat door, and they have tons of toys and beds to sleep in. Every dog, big or small, has areas outside where they can explore and let out tons of energy. But they do have cages inside that they can go to for shelter. They, too, have a lot of toys and comfortable beds.
The shelter smells like sanitizer, and the rooms are always dusted and cleaned. The animals that are sick are well cared for and separated from the healthier pets. All animals get attention: the cats are played with and each dog is walked many times throughout the day.
The sanctuary is called Norman’s Second Chance Shelter, and it is a pure “no-kill” shelter. They only euthanize if the animal is incurably sick. I volunteer as much as I can here, but I am required to volunteer just one three-hour day per month since I joined. But they accept anyone who offers a hand. I volunteer here for many reasons. I love being around animals while I am away from my golden retriever at home, but I also support the no-kill idea that has exploded nationwide.
My favorite part of volunteering at the shelter is being able to play with the kittens. Most volunteers choose to walk dogs while they are there. But I like to clean the cat rooms as well as give attention to the cats. The kittens are the best to hang out with. They are so innocent, and they all love to climb in my lap as well as chase their bells. It is so nice to watch them play. They look so comfortable and happy. Soon they will be able to live in a home, having the same amount of fun and possibly even more. This time it will be with a family who loves them just as much as I love spending time with them.
It is the happiness that I feel while playing with the kittens that makes me realize it is possible to protect these animals and give them a fighting chance in this unfair world. The new shelter in Norman will provide a chance for these poor creatures. I believe it will be helpful and successful. I am very grateful it has passed. I am also thrilled and very shocked that the new shelter has a possibility of becoming a no-kill shelter. A new era will begin for helping the homeless animals in America.