The sight of a person sitting in a parking lot beside a cardboard box that says “Free Kittens,” or “Puppies $5” sends chills down the spine of anyone with a heart for animal welfare. For a while, this practice may seem like a clever way to dispense of an unwanted litter of puppies or kittens, but baby animals are not garage sale items.

In the legend of Pandora’s Box, the Greek god Zeus gave Pandora a box which she was told not to open. When she chose to open it anyway, a swarm of unending problems, troubles and pitfalls befell the world. Much in the same way, a box of puppies and kittens being given away in a parking lot unleashes its own cascade of troubles, beginning with the very welfare of the animals.

portrait of Colleen Dougherty guest columnist

Colleen Dougherty

Too often we hear stories of people acquiring tiny kittens and puppies too young to have been taken from their mothers — some with their umbilical cords still attached. This is truly a potential death sentence. Puppies and kittens, especially, are born with very few natural immunities, and those begin to decline within 24 hours of birth. They start rebuilding their immune systems by nursing on their moms from the moment they’re born.

When deprived of this six-to-eight week process, puppies and kittens are at risk for developing deadly conditions like pneumonia or parvo, and often die slow, painful deaths while their new families watch helplessly. The grief this causes is another of the troubles rising out of this Pandora’s Box. Another is there’s no guarantee that someone taking a puppy or kitten on the spur of a moment has the means or the intention of giving that little one quality care or keeping them safe from harm.

Remember for every litter given away in a parking lot, there are as many animals awaiting adoption in shelters — animals that may end up being euthanized for lack of homes. And, if the puppy or kitten you give away isn’t spayed or neutered at some point, their offspring will continue this cascade of troubles, perhaps indefinitely.

Many counties and cities in and around Los Lunas have ordinances making it illegal to sell or give away animals in parking lots or on the side of the road.  The ordinances state, for example, that hobby breeders and people who end up with accidental litters must purchase permits ($25 to $150 per year) to produce, maintain and sell their animals. They also prohibit animals from being offered for sale or adoption off the property of the breeder. Penalties for violating an ordinance include fines up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail. These ordinances are often difficult to enforce does not negate their existence or the intention behind them, which is to protect the welfare of animals and people within the entire community.

While it may seem like a perk to have the family cat produce kittens you can sell to make some quick cash, is the creation of life really the best way to make money? It’s kind of like trafficking. Truly, there are better ways.

Accidental litters only happen to unfixed animals, so that’s the first step. I know some people are against the idea of sterilizing their pets, but looking at the reality and the consequences of this situation, don’t we somehow have to put our opinions aside and do the right thing for the greater good?

Here are some ideas: If you have a litter, offer to keep them until they’re weaned and then surrender them to a shelter or rescue. Take advantage of spay and neuter clinics and the Zimmer Foundation to help mitigate the high cost of spay and neuter surgeries. If you choose to find homes on your own, reach out for information on the best ways to do that.

In the legend of Pandora’s Box, the only thing left in the box was hope. Some say it’s still there, waiting for the right time to emerge and help mankind with our troubles. Others say hope will forever remain in the box as a consequence of our human follies, never to be released as a remedy for our human ills.

I’ve said before that hope is the thing that keeps people in animal welfare going, naïve and fleeting as it may sometimes feel. I still believe we have to give hope a chance for the animals, and for ourselves. We are all connected.

 

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portrait of Colleen Dougherty animal welfare guest columnist
Colleen Dougherty, guest columnist