Letter: County Should Better Fund Animal Programs

I recently came across a horrific sight on an Acreage sidewalk where children walk to their bus stop — the remains of the bottom half of a cat. This cat was one of many cats who struggle to survive, only to die on our streets. Usually not spayed or neutered, they breed endless kittens that also suffer horrible fates.

In 2014, the Palm Beach County Commission’s Countdown to Zero Resolution promised that pet overpopulation would be humanely under control by 2024. It’s unlikely that goal will be achieved, even if the statistics used by the county only count live shelter intake animals. The shelter method the county uses to calculate percentage “saved” is questionable. Animals left behind to suffer and die on the streets aren’t counted, and it doesn’t appear that “saved” equates to finding a permanent home. Any honest animal rescuer will admit the needs of homeless animals are not being adequately funded, solved or addressed.

The so-called “zero” goal was supposed to be achieved by funding spay/neuter programs to increase sterilizations to 36,000 annually, but it is not being implemented. In fact, the county spay/neuter clinic at Animal Care & Control has been closed more often than open, and especially limited are clinics for TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return) of cats. The county has funded approximately $240,000 in tax dollars annually to pay the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League $75 per cat for TNVR and $100 per dog. It appears no efforts were made to contract with local veterinarians and nonprofit clinics to increase to sufficient numbers accessible free spay/neuter. Is it possible that of the more than 300 veterinarians listed on the DPR site as located in Palm Beach County, none will contract to be reimbursed at a reasonable rate while helping promote welfare of animals? In Miami-Dade, some veterinarians accept $75 for male cats and $100 for females for a tax-funded program free to trappers and low-income pet owners.

With hundreds of nonprofit animal rescue groups in this area, few provide affordable spay/neuter and veterinary care. Decades of sheltering and euthanizing animals has proven costly and impossible to adopt and euthanize our way out of pet overpopulation. Access to free spay/neuter, breeding regulations, pet-friendly housing, affordable veterinary care and help with food or temporarily shelter in times of personal emergencies is mandatory. C2Z was supposed create these programs. Instead, at its main event, an annual adoption, the number of adoptions drop each year.

Some of our animals are shipped to northeastern states, many which still have homeless animals on their own streets and in shelters, but these shelters will take sought-after kittens and puppies because that meets local demand. This leaves most adult cats and “unadoptable” dogs behind to face death. What happens when these states become saturated with “imported” animals from other communities like ours, which aren’t solving pet overpopulation properly in our own communities?

Animal Care & Control won’t assist residents with TNVR; instead they cite them for feeding unsterilized cats. People who can’t do it themselves beg for help with trapping. Due to limited access to free spay/neuter and the inability of some residents, due to mental, physical, age handicaps or transportation or time deprivation, this means cats are left to breed, and with ACC threatening fines if they continue to feed, cats are left to starve, and with the new garbage containers, they can’t even access food in trash cans.

Please contact your county commissioners and ask them to properly fund adequate preventative programs to stop the endless litters of kittens and puppies being born and to hire adequate ACC staff to go out on the streets to do TNVR for residents, and enforce cruelty, neglect and breeding regulations to make our community safe, healthy and humane.

Debbie Lewis, The Acreage