According to the Humane Society of the United States and the National Council on Pet Population, about 4 million pets in animal shelters are euthanized annually. Others say that number is closer to 10 million. Annually.
Either way, that's millions of animals in this country alone that never find homes.
Now, perhaps inevitably, those astronomical numbers have triggered the creation of a controversial new Web site. DogsinDanger.com posts photos of dogs on death row in shelters across the country, along with a countdown clock to their scheduled date for euthanasia first by number of days remaining, then by number of hours.
And while you browse the site, whether looking for a dog, reading "Success Stories" or lamenting those "In Memoriam," a ticker in the upper left-hand corner of your screen tracks the number of dogs that have been "killed" since you logged on.
Cold hard facts? In your face? You bet. Log on at your own risk. It'll break your heart. And apparently that's the point.
"The point of the site is that these dogs are going to die, and that's the reality of the situation. We didn't create it, we just put a face to it," said Brenda Bush, director of The Buddy Fund, which sponsors the Dogs in Danger site.
The site went live in early October. A month later, more than 300 dogs have been saved.
The Web site works in cooperation with animal shelters nationwide, and to date, more than 200 shelters have signed up. Like it or not, the idea is catching on although some animal welfare organizations have their reservations.
Philadelphia's Animal Care and Control Association (PACCA) opted not to join. PACCA is of particular importance to the Dogs in Danger folks because of its relative high-kill rate, although that number has dropped significantly since they came under new management in 2005. A spokesperson for Dogs in Danger went on the "Today" show and said, "One shelter, PACCA, in Philadelphia, has refused to participate. They claim that it's too cumbersome for them and it doesn't really fit their model."
Unfortunately, that wasn't the full story.
Tara Derby, CEO of PACCA now the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) wanted to set the record straight and did so with NBC 10 in Philadelphia. According to her, PAWS doesn't set euthanasia dates for dogs, and DogsinDanger.com wouldn't allow them to post without a specific euthanasia date. "They suggested to us that we just pick some fictitious date and keep pushing it out."
Therein lies the real problem maybe the only problem with this idea: emotional manipulation.
Whether or not the "death" dates are real or enforced, the dogs are real and in real need of a good home and a lot of love. When you see their sweet faces and that ominous countdown clock, it's hard to resist the urge to help. ... All of them! ... Immediately!
In visiting a site like this, it's important to keep in mind: Our reasons for adopting a dog should be sound. We should be prepared for that lifestyle change. We should be willing to commit to him. We should be able to afford him. We should be determined to train him. In other words, we must be equipped with more than a save-the-world mentality. We must live a save-this-dog reality.
For example, many of those who rushed to adopt had been thinking about getting a dog for a while anyway people whose lifestyles allow it, who know what they're looking for and understand what they're getting into. These cases create powerful pros in favor of DogsinDanger.com. Getting your next dog from a shelter is a wonderful way to save a life and find your new best friend. This site connects these people to those shelters.Woof!
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