Opinion: We Should Start By Fighting Pet Overpopulation Here At Home

Regarding the story about rescuing golden retrievers from China by bringing them into Florida (“RPB Woman Helps Organization Rescue Golden Retrievers,” Dec. 18), while I applaud all efforts to save an animal’s life, rescue and adoption has never and will never achieve a permanent solution to pet overpopulation and animal abuse and cruelty, unless accompanied by breeding restrictions, funding free and accessible sterilization surgeries, and public education.

Homeless pets are being euthanized, abused and neglected every day in the United States, including in South Florida, as multi-million-dollar shelters continue to be built. Local breeders are still selling puppies and kittens, and the internet pet trade is importing and exporting these animals worldwide to unknown fates. Saving a few dogs from the meat trade by bringing them here is not going to end the practice, especially if breeders are being paid. It will take efforts of animal welfare activist citizens living in these locations (with support of international animal welfare groups and others) pressuring the governments to enact laws and educating citizens about cruelty and health issues to change the culture. Ending the killing of other animals for meat is something we have not achieved in the U.S. either, despite documented neglect and cruelty in the meat processing industries.

In November, Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control took in 205 dogs and 387 cats. This doesn’t include animals taken off the streets by individuals, nonprofits or homeless animals still out on the streets or animals that died on the streets.

The welfare of animals should be the priority of the pet rescue industry, not meeting the demand of consumers. That’s what caused the pet overpopulation problem in the first place. The focus must be on preventing the births, not satisfying public demand for kittens and puppies or certain breeds of dogs, at least not until we end pet abandonment and surrender that fills shelters and streets and results in abuse, neglect and death. The goal should not be to replace pet shops with “nonprofit” shelters, if the animals are coming from just as horrible conditions as those from puppy mills or backyard breeders or from cats whose kittens are adopted while parents are left behind on the street and nothing is done to truly end the breeding where it originates.

Yes, it is true that an animal saved anywhere is an animal saved. But isn’t it even better to stop the breeding so we don’t have so many to save here so we can save more animals from other places? So, if you want to support saving a dog from China, go ahead, but at the same time, support funding for ending pet overpopulation in your own community through prevention of births and veterinary care for those already here. Fight for the animals here in shelters and on the streets by telling your elected officials to require administrative staff to budget funding free and accessible spay and neuter, and staff to hands-on assist with trapping (if necessary) and transporting them to sterilization clinics.

Debbie Lewis, Royal Palm Beach


  1. I agree 100%. I have worked with Chinese cat caretakers who feed stray cats, and I help insofar as possible to spay/neuter them. I must have saved MILLIONS of lives from sure misery in the streets as well as the cat meat trade, simply by spaying/neutering between 500 – 1000 cats per year, depending on donations. My non-profit is the Fur Free Society, Inc but in addition to the org website, I have a dedicated website for the program in China. See below.
    Thank you for this important commentary.

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