Please rally around the animal shelter

Published 8:32 am Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I’m a Connecticut native, but readily admit that southerners do a lot of things better than us Yankees. Y’all are more polite, more stylish, throw classier parties, and there’s simply no comparison where food is concerned (I was just daydreaming about Boure’s shrimp and grits while sitting in traffic). But, here’s one thing we do way better up north: we spay or neuter our pets.

Pet overpopulation doesn’t exist in Connecticut. In fact, in most northern states, education about and advocacy for spay/neuter has resulted in pet under-population: we transport animals in from other areas of the country just to meet the adoption interest here.

When we moved to Oxford in 2009 for my (now) husband to begin law school, I applied for a kennel attendant position at the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, imagining there could be no better job than caring for animals all day. Instead, I was extremely overwhelmed by the pet overpopulation crisis.

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I’d often drive home in tears from the stress of endless animal surrenders and the terrible condition that many were in. But I was determined to make a difference. Six months later, I was the Executive Director.

At OLHS, we worked tirelessly to find placement for pets in local homes or rescue groups. But I always knew the only way to permanently cut down on surrenders and euthanasia was to get the community to see the value of spaying and neutering. OLHS’ Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) doubled in numbers, and we partnered with local vets to perform free spay/neuter clinics. But it was never enough, and our intake numbers continued to rise.

When I gave notice that we were moving back to Connecticut, I had sleepless nights imagining leaving without having any way to help the increasing number of surrendered animals. I had accepted a position at the Connecticut Humane Society and hatched a crazy plan: when we moved, we would simultaneously transport animals north.

On moving day, we removed the seats from our van and fit together crates like a game of Tetris to accommodate the 41 animals we were transporting, towed behind a full-size U-Haul. At a gas station in Tennessee, a woman asked if she could buy a cat because she wanted to breed her. Exhausted and frustrated, I simply stared at her until she walked away from me. It took us 39 hours of driving to get to CT Humane, but it was worth it: within a week, all of the animals had found new homes.

Here’s my point: trying to save the lives of homeless animals merely through adoption and transfers without an active, vigorous, community-supported spay/neuter program is like trying to drain the sea with a colander.

I could write a novel about my four years working at the shelter, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I’m writing with a plea for the citizens of Oxford and surrounding areas: please rally behind OLHS’ goal of establishing a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

When the shelter was constructed, the large front room that’s currently being used as storage was intended for this purpose. And now, a generous bequest has made funds available to establish the clinic, which is designed to be self-sufficient once created. I can think of no logical argument against having the clinic and a veterinarian on staff. The owned animals of community members and homeless animals at the shelter will only benefit. Your support will go a long way to making the difference that these animals so desperately need and deserve.

Sarah Layton

Deep River, Connecticut