Published: Nov 17, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 17, 2012 06:33 PM
Give three meows and two woofs more for one of the most cost-effective, humane decisions ever made by Durham County government: participation in the animal-sterilization program operated by the nonprofit organization AnimalKind.
The objective is to save lives instead of take them, and to that end the agreement between the county commissioners and AnimalKind marks a turning point in how local government deals with a surfeit of domestic pets.
True, the Durham County shelter isnt a no-kill facility, but it could become one by default if the sterilization effort shows promise during the 12-month pact with AnimalKind. The organization has a record of success in other jurisdictions including Orange, Wake, Caswell and Person counties.
Now, dont get the idea. AnimalKind is not offering free pet sterilization to the county. But for every dollar the county spends per Fluffy or Fido, the taxpayers can expect a multiplier effect of three-to-one in long-term savings. Fewer animals sheltered translates directly into lower costs.
Like some other government-backed programs, the $20 Fix is means-tested. That is, low-income residents generally pay $20 or sometimes less. Thats the way to go, because the poor often dont have the disposable income to pay for pet spaying or neutering.
It works this way: Durham County pays AnimalKind for each sterilization. AnimalKind passes that money along to one of four participating veterinary practices. Meanwhile, the county seeks reimbursement from the state.
This is where things can break down because of the variability in state funds, but on the whole the system works. Moreover, as a charity AnimalKind has resources of its own through contributions and a thrift shop in Raleigh.
Of course, none of this has a future if eligible Durham County residents fail to take advantage of it.
As correspondent Jamie Kennedy Jones reported last week, Durham County euthanizes 15 or so animals a year for every 1,000 residents a high killing rate. AnimalKind wants to cut the mortality rate to five animals per 1,000 residents.
Euthanasia cant be reduced to zero because some animals are so sick or otherwise disabled that ending their lives is the only humane thing to do. Two animal euthanasia incidents per 1,000 residents is considered no-kill.
Weve all seen scurrying feral cats and scrawny homeless dogs, and their plight tugs at our emotions. Whether you approach the issue from a religious or a secular position, I do believe we at the top of evolutionary ladder have a moral and ethical responsibility for beings on the lower rungs.
Thats especially true for cats and dogs, by far the two most popular domestic animals. The United States supports an estimated 135 million of them.
Over millennia, these two species have made a singular accommodation with humankind, giving up most of their wildness in exchange for food and warmth, protection and companionship. Many a cat or dog has insinuated itself into a human family to the point that it morphs, in a strange and metaphysical way, into a member of that family, faithful unto death.
With the AnimalKind pact, Durham County government has taken a big step toward acknowledging and repairing its bond with the natural world. The rest, as that great sage Anonymous said, is up to us.
Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.