Heartbreaking reality: Owners line up at shelter to surrender their pets before July 4th parties

A long line at the entrance to an open-door animal shelter in Houston, Texas has inspired a great deal of dialogue on social media about the homeless animal crisis happening in many areas of the nation. The heartbreaking photo was taken by the rescue group Snarr  – Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation. On the organization’s Facebook page, the frustration and anger over the number of surrendered animals was palpable:

“All these dogs and cats are about to be DUMPED to face a death sentence. Right now, they are standing in line, the concrete searing their paws, and they have no idea that it’s about to get worse,” the post begins. 

And then the reality of what the dogs and cats are quickly sensing and the apparent indifference of their human companions brings both anger and tears at the same time:

“They’ll be dragged from the person they love, the person that swore to love and care for them for the duration of their lives. They’ll be confused, sad, but most of all terrified. The smell of death is overpowering here. After a day or two of sleeping on cold, dirty floors with the cacophony always all around, shivering and scared, they’ll be walked down a long hall to a room.”

The world will soon end for that once “loved” pet while their owners most likely are reveling in the fireworks, the celebrations and the long vacation weekends, but wait – Fluffy and Fido breathed their last. Vacations and holiday celebrations are the most common reasons pets are surrendered at this time of year:

“A needle will slide into their veins and they’ll slip away, wondering where their beloved human is and why they never came back.”

This is just one shelter, and if anyone thinks this is an unusual occurrence and perhaps this writer or the rescuers of Snarr are exaggerating, here are more examples of what continues across the country:

“Snarr – Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation This is the harsh reality every day at most every large city shelter. 8 surrenders at the Harris Shelter at the time someone was there looking for an lost dog.”

“Brenda Lee The exact thing is happening in Philly this week, today too. We have over 80 owner surrenders in one week. Our shelter only holds about 100 big dogs. So, you can imagine how bad it is.”

“Wendy NV Our rural shelter in the Mojave desert in CA is suffering the same…more come to drop animals than help them the past few weeks.”

And while some may say every person who shows up at a shelter with a dog or cat may not always be the owner, many times people will not admit to being an owner to avoid paying a surrender charge – funding used to feed and care for the shelter pets no longer wanted by their families. Of course there are hardship cases, but reach out to the community for help, call friends and family, contact breed specific rescue organizations and network to find your faithful companion a home before surrendering them to an open admission animal shelter. Make sure to spay and neuter and reduce the problem of unwanted litters.  How many of these young, healthy pets will ever make it out of the shelter? How about the senior dog whose heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces as he watches his owner walk away for the last time?

“What can you do about it? FOSTER. ADOPT. TRANSPORT. SHARE. DONATE. And always remember to spay and neuter pets. Looking away is being a part of the problem.”

Did you know? There are currently 230 dogs available for adoption at Houston’s BARC Animal Shelter (open-admission facility) and 133 cats. At the Harris County Animal Shelter there are currently 256 homeless dogs and 318 cats.

In a response from BARC, Jennifer Durrence Donaldson, the deputy assistant director for the shelter stated,

“The line in the photo includes both wellness and intake customers. We had 57 wellness and foster customers today.”

The shelter takes in 26,000 dogs and cats annually stating they have an 80% rescue rate. Therefore 20% or 5,200 dogs and cats die at the shelter each year. Divide the number by 365 days, assuming the shelter is never closed, which then averages 71 pets entering the facility daily; therefore averaging 14 dogs and cats per day surrendered or turned in as strays. While the efforts of BARC are to be celebrated, there is still much work to be done.

Follow the National Pet Rescue on Facebook.

(Photo via Snarr)