MONDAY, JAN. 25, 2016 – Approximately eight out of every 10 dogs impounded within Riverside County Animal Services’ shelters experienced a positive outcome.
Eighty percent of the dogs that landed in county shelters in 2015 were adopted, transferred to one of the department’s adoption partner organizations or returned to their rightful owners, Director Robert Miller said in an announcement.
The 80 percent live release rate for dogs is an all-time high for Riverside County Animal Services in a calendar year, the director said. But Miller is not celebrating the milestone. Instead, he said he wanted to use the good-news-for-dogs announcement as a sounding board for the department’s feline friends.
“Yes, we’ve pushed the needle in a fantastic direction for dogs, but we and our community members are doing a horrible job for cats,” Miller said. “How bad is it for cats? Very, very bad. And we want to change that in 2016.”
In short, the live-release rate for cats is the polar opposite of canines. Eight out of every 10 cats impounded into the county’s four shelters are being euthanized. A mere 20 percent of cats get adopted or rescued.
“That’s not only bad, that’s pathetic,” Miller said.
There are some known reasons why the cat problem is as bad as it is. Dog owners are held to a higher standard, Miller said.
“The standards for dog owners and cat owners are not the same and thus, the outcomes are completely different,” he said. “Let’s face the sad reality. People view cats as replaceable. Regulations for cats are minimal and cat owners contribute to the problems. But a dog owner faces more scrutiny. They must get their pet vaccinated for rabies, must get an annual license and, if they don’t want to pay the higher fee for an unaltered dog license, they must go get the pet fixed.”
Another issue: Only a handful of cities within Riverside County mandate that cats must be microchipped. There is a lax attitude regarding cat owners, and a lack of responsibility by the cat owners themselves, Miller said.
“We think these higher standards for dog owners has helped us get to the positive numbers, but it would be wrong of us to praise ourselves when the number of cats getting euthanized is disgraceful,” Miller said.
So what needs to be done?
Community members need to adopt more cats. Community leaders need to start talking about unpopular topics, such as whether requirements should be made for cat owners. Should cat owners, for example, be mandated to get an annual license? Should cat owners not be allowed to let their pets roam freely, off leash?
“We have a free-for-all mentality in the cat world and it’s led us down this sad path,” Miller said.
Compounding the problem are some other factors. Cats are not getting adopted at the same level as their canine friends. And there are fewer adoption partner (rescue) organizations pulling felines from county shelters.
“Why are we doing so poorly in cats? That’s something we need to ask ourselves, as a community, every day,” Miller said. “Some people estimate that there are 2 million cat videos people can watch anytime online. And these silly videos have been viewed more than 25 billion times. Twenty-five billion! And yet cats are euthanized at an alarming rate throughout the state of California and the country. If those who posted cat videos would spend more energy preaching responsibility to what we know is a captive audience, maybe we’ll get somewhere.”
This year, Miller said, he and his team members are asking for everyone’s help to make cat outcomes be an ongoing discussion among everyone in our community.
“Clearly, we love laughing about hilarious things cats do,” Miller said. “But we don’t love them enough to get them chipped, or spayed or neutered, or adopted.”
Miller said he is hopeful community leaders, residents and animal advocates will embrace Riverside County Animal Services’ plea for help when it comes to cats.
“To be blunt, this is ridiculous and shameful,” Miller said. “We – everyone – must get better in saving cats. We must do everything in our power to make sure more cats do not end up in shelters. We need to push family members and friends to get their cats fixed. It’s time to fix the feline debacle.”
Miller said 2016 will be a year of continued challenges and goals focused on improving the outcomes of cats and, in addition, pushing the 80 percent live-release rate for dogs upward.
He said more announcements are planned for the year and this dogs-doing-well-cats-not-so-much announcement is to get the dialogue started. Improving the outcome of the cat population within county shelters is one of the biggest priorities for 2016, he said.
“In an era when cat videos dominate the Internet, why can’t we, as a community, come forward to save the lives of cats in our neighborhoods? We’re hopeful that, by getting this conversation started, we’ll move forward with positive actions for cats and, eventually, see great results.”