These homeless are dogs and cats. Some 70,000 dogs - and cats - are born every day in the U.S. because of uncontrolled breeding, according to the Humane Society of the United States. In Chesterfield County, the local animal shelter Paws and Claws cares for about 3,000 homeless animals per year. Sadly, 80 percent of the animals that enter the shelter do not leave; they are killed by euthanasia.
This is not done out of cruelty, but out of necessity. The all-volunteer organization can only care for a limited number of animals, and since the shelter does not turn any animal away, animals with serious health problems or bad temperaments are destroyed. Those with prolonged stays at the shelter and do not appear "adoptable" are eventually killed as well to make room for the next homeless animal.
This hopeless cycle is set in motion by irresponsible people who do not spay or neuter their pets and allow them to breed uncontrollably. Despite the shocking numbers of stray animals and abandoned pets, only 20 states have laws requiring sterilization of such animals. As a result, packs of stray dogs wander through downtown or roam the countryside, presenting a health threat to people and their pets.
A change in the law does not have to occur at the state level, however. County governments can enact stricter animal control laws, from requiring sterilization to enforcing breeder permits - both of which are proven to drastically reduce the population of stray animals.
Passing these laws is only half the battle; getting people to comply would be the bigger struggle.
To truly change the stray dog and cat situation, we have to change people first, change their way of thinking about animals. Animals are God's creatures, too. They deserve care and compassion as much as a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, a family member. They deserve to be fed, to receive healthcare, to be loved. They don't deserve to be abandoned by the roadside or left behind in a move like an old piece of furniture.
Stricter animal control laws may not be on the horizon for Chesterfield County, but educating people on the importance of pet care can be done.