by Chelsea Simpson
Sustainability in Oklahoma City took a small, unexpected step forward last week. As of January 15, the city will pay for the spaying or neutering of any dogs and cats that wind up at the city shelter, even if their owners come to claim them. Previously, owners hoping to take their lost pets home were required to pay a fee to cover the costs associated with caring for the animal at the shelter. But now owners can have that fee waived if they provide proof that their pet has been altered or agree to have it altered at the city’s expense.
Hopefully the fee waiver will result in more owners claiming their pets, which will save the city in boarding and euthanasia costs, and more pets being altered, which will eventually lead to a decrease in the overall population of unwanted pets.
That last point is where sustainability comes in: unwanted pets. According to an article in the Journal Record last month, Oklahoma City euthanized 17,654 dogs and cats last year. That is waste, my friends, at its most grotesque. I fret about throwing away all kinds of things—leftover potatoes, socks with holes, wrinkled printer paper. I also realize that we are a wasteful society, consuming too much on many fronts, but the lives’ of living things? That stretches wastefulness beyond acceptable limits.
Let’s remind ourselves what we are talking about here because I grew up on a farm, and I eat meat. I know the argument, and it goes like this, “Dogs and cats are animals, and just like livestock they are here to be used by humans. If that’s how you feel, then use them—let them warm your lap and welcome your visitors and perform more noble tasks, like search and rescue or bomb sniffing because that’s what they were bred for. There is no need to breed new animals so long as thousands of them are being euthanized. To my knowledge, no one kills cattle just to make room for more cattle; we kill them for a purpose. Their slaughter isn’t simply a matter of convenience.
Yet more dogs and cats continue to be produced because we keep buying them. Then we throw the old ones away. So as we move toward sustainability with our recycled pop cans, hybrid cars and local food, let’s not forget our loyal companions. “Recycle” a pet from the shelter. Avoid creating “new waste” by spaying and neutering. And support new legislation and rules like the one that took effect last week.