State needs a sound spay/neuter program

All across the state, one public service group works their regular job, then remains on-call. Around 150 of them met in Flatwoods last weekend. On any given day, they may encounter nice people, criminals, the mentally ill, and government officials. Their work is often dirty and dangerous. They must often raise the money to do their jobs – including salary and supplies – stretch it tissue-paper thin, and tend to required government paperwork. They deal with medical issues, often emergencies, diseases and sometimes interstate commerce. What they do is essential to public health in many ways (and often privately funded), but their task is invisible to society or worse, shunned or shrugged off.

Who are these people? Your neighbors, friends, coworkers, and public servants whose often-paltry salaries you pay. What is their job? Cleaning up after the rest of us. They tend to society’s “living garbage.” These people are each county’s shelter and rescue workers, animal control officers and euthanasia technicians. They collect or receive or confiscate domestic animals being neglected or treated cruelly. Then they care for and try to find them forever homes. They’d better work quickly, though. Shelter space is limited. In a few days, they’ll need space for more unwanted pets. That “space” is made by killing the least likely to be adopted.

How can they do such a thing? Because their neighbors force them to. We have a chronic surplus of pets and deficit of homes for them. Because human beings can be unimaginably mean and irresponsible. Because people refuse to spay and neuter their own pets, who – unlike us – do exactly as their Creator instructed them to: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Some folks hoard, thinking a loathsome life of filth beats the space-gaining alternative. Others run puppy mills, somehow selling pups at high prices who’ve been crammed in wire cages stacked five high with inadequate food, water, exercise, socialization, ventilation and excess frustration. But so what? After all, who are they going to tell?

Both problems are on the rise in our state. Their byproducts generate unpleasant levels of waste toxic to air and water. As nearby states tighten their laws and enforcement, many refugees see West Virginia as open for business. If enforced, the new West Virginia Puppy Mill law will help.

Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick spoke Saturday, assuring these public servants he’s committed to establishing a sound spay/neuter program in West Virginia. He’s done his research and considered the issue for a long time. Why? “It’s the right thing to do.”

Most certainly, not just for unwanted pets, but for the people whose hearts and hands deal with them. Individuals, church and civic groups can help by advocating responsible pet ownership and budgeting some amount of funds regularly for local animal welfare groups. Commissioner Helmick is doing his part. Now, can we do ours?

Barbara Grigg