"Pet Lovers" seek to curb animal euthanasia

Dexter is a five-year-old pit bull that was left by his owner at a local Los Angeles City shelter just over a week ago. Along with many others like him, Dexter now spends his days sharing a kennel with other dogs, leading a relatively tedious life. When entering the West L.A. shelter, it is impossible not to notice the overwhelming smell of animal feces, and the sounds of barking or crying dogs hoping to catch the attention of a passer-by.

These are the living conditions of many abandoned, abused and stray animals like Dexter that are brought into local shelters. Due to limited space and overpopulation at many of these places, the “putting down” of animals is a common occurrence.

“It is estimated that there are about 17,000 healthy, adoptable and treatable pets killed in our L.A. City shelters each year,” says Brenda Barnette, general manager of several L.A. City shelters. “We are working to end that unnecessary killing.”

In an attempt to help stop the euthanizing of sheltered animals, several animal organizations have been trying to launch the new California Pet Lover’s License Plate, available for purchase at the DMV.

“The proceeds from the license plate will go into a fund to increase statewide spay and neuter to prevent so many pets from entering our shelters,” says Barnette.

Involved organizations include the California Veterinary Medical Board, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society, among others.

According to PETA, shelters cannot humanely house and support all sheltered animals until their natural deaths. The animals would be forced to live in cramped cages or kennels for years, where they would likely become lonely and stressed.

“The answer is easy and practical,” says Ryan Huling, PETA’s manager of college campaigns and outreach. “Neutering prevents more animals from being born; therefore less animals will end up abandoned in shelters. It is life-saving.”

Huling, who believes euthanizing is currently necessary, claims that though animals experience some discomfort during the process, it is less painful and less dangerous than the alternative.

“It is the most humane thing to do for animals born into a world that has no room for them,” Huling says.

Animals that live in shelters too long often suffer from malnutrition, disease and trauma, which are more painful results, according to Huling, that are generally associated with a feeling of neglect.

“Our average length of stay was over seven days the last time we calculated it,” says Barnette. “We do not kill for time, only for space, to avoid overcrowding and other problems, such as dog fights.”

According to the ASPCA’s website, three to four million animals in the U.S. are euthanized, more than half of sheltered animals overall.

The society also states that of all cats and dogs currently under ownership in the U.S., only 20 to 30 percent were adopted from shelters and rescues.

The California Pet Lover’s license plate will contain the phrase “Spay & Neuter Saves Lives,” as well as a painting of a dog and cat. The artwork displayed on the plate was created and donated by former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, whose inspiration stemmed from the dog and cat that he and his wife adopted.

According to its website, 7,500 plates must be preordered before July 1, 2013 in order for production to begin. As of May 4, 4,870 preordered spots have been filled.

“One of the main things the [license plate] will do is raise awareness,” says Huling. “People who are driving will see these license plates, and understand that neutering is a life-saving necessity for pets.”

Other organizations also do their part to save animals from being euthanized. Kitten Rescue finds volunteers to house rescued cats and some dogs until they are adopted.

Every Sunday from 12 to 3:30 p.m., Kitten Rescue partners with Petco, located on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, to showcase several of their rescued animals at an adoption event.