The La Plata County Humane Society has had its share of controversy over the years. From organizational quarrels to a pet owner wrongly equating it to a death camp for dogs, a group that exists only to help animals has been the center of too much misdirected anger and angst.
In part, that simply reflects the deep affection people have for dogs and cats. Even minor questions become emotional. For those who share a fondness for animals, however, a better picture of the Humane Society can be seen in its ongoing efforts to see unwanted pets adopted into loving homes.
But that it has to keep doing so, and at an increasing rate, reveals too many pet owners' refusal to act responsibly. That unfortunate fact has to be recognized along with the Humane Society's good work.
The latest example of the Humane Society's thinking is its connection with Rescue Waggin.' A program run by the pet-supply retailer PetSmart, Rescue Waggin' takes adoptable dogs from shelters with an overabundance and delivers them to areas where they are more likely to be adopted. The idea is to connect good dogs with good families, making all concerned happy. In the process, the number of dogs that must be euthanized is reduced.
This week the Humane Society shipped 17 dogs to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. That shelter serves another dog-friendly community, but one that is considerably larger than Durango. Presumably that translates into the ability to place more dogs in healthy homes.
PetSmart says the Rescue Waggin' has saved 24,000 dogs since its inception in 2004. The Durango animal shelter alone has already sent 16 puppies and dogs to Boulder and expects to ship as many as 20 a month for the foreseeable future.
The Humane Society says that effort is saving dogs' lives every day. While 1,500 dogs and cats were adopted out of the La Plata County facility, keeping up with the need, however, would mean increasing the number adopted by half.
To those who hate to think of pets being euthanized, a group that includes just about everyone, the idea of the Rescue Waggin' is welcome news. Matching hitherto unwanted animals with families seeking pets is just good.
But the warm and fuzzy aspect of this is driven by an ugly problem that seemingly is not getting better. Irresponsible pet owners are letting their dogs and cats breed too many more dogs and cats, and the surplus ends up in the Humane Society shelter.
In the happy cases, that leads to an adoption. But as the Welcome Waggin' program illustrates, getting to a good outcome requires more and more effort as the numbers increase. And too often the result is the euthanasia all concerned would rather avoid.
The answer is obvious. Pet owners need to take responsibility for their animals and have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered. It really is just that simple. And unless and until more pet owners accept that obligation the efforts of the Humane Society, PetSmart and the Rescue Waggin', as well-intentioned as they are, will remain stopgaps struggling to keep up.
Issues involving animals get emotional because animal lovers get so intensely involved with their pets. But the best way to demonstrate that love is to have their pets spayed or neutered.