Every other week at the Tracy Animal Shelter, a truck arrives from Sacramento to take away six or eight barrels of dead animals for cremation. As the bodies of cats and dogs are lifted high into the air and dropped into the Dumpster, only the hardened can watch without a twinge of despair. Each animal has stayed at least four days at the shelter, and staffers and volunteers have named every one.
Unwanted animals are a fact of life in communities, which is why we have what we used to call “dog pounds.” Like many towns, Tracy’s rapid-fire growth hasn’t paid for a bigger animal shelter. We still have the same 20 dog kennels next to the same foul-smelling sewage-treatment plant we had when we were a town of 20,000 people.
And now with rampant home foreclosures and a faltering economy, families are walking away from their pets, leaving the city’s shelter and the community with the burden.
The statistics are alarming. The number of dogs impounded during the first six months of 2008 is up 76 percent from the same period in 2007. For cats, the increase is 58 percent.
And that doesn’t include all the animals turned away because they were from outside the city limits.
At this rate, by the end of the year, more than 2,000 animals — most of them not licensed, spayed or neutered — will take up residence at a shelter too small to take them, and all at taxpayer expense.
That’s not to say there aren’t happy endings at the shelter. Some pets are reclaimed by their owners, adopted at the shelter or taken by rescue groups, which help them be adopted.
It’s truly the rescue groups that have kept the number of animals that the shelter has to kill from increasing in 2008. Tracy has at least five groups, which often work with other organizations, along with donors, veterinarians and volunteers, to make the difference between life and death.
We’d love to see the shelter double its number of kennels. We’d also love to see an end to the killing of shelter dogs and cats, by empowering rescue groups and the shelter to care for them and find good homes for them.
Most of all, we wish we wouldn’t have to put away dogs and cats by the barrel.
The city’s bursting-at-the-seams animal shelter.
How to help
• The Lucky Fund helps pay for veterinary care for injured strays. Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to the Tracy Police Department, c/o Animal Services, 1000 Civic Center Drive, Tracy 95376.
• Shelter volunteers are needed for dog walking, clerical help, kennel work, pet socialization and the foster program. For information: 831-6364.
• Animal Rescue of Tracy: 546-1517
• Delta Paws: 834-8552 or www.deltapaws.com
• East of Eden: 925-980-3035
• Lucky Paws Foundation: 834-8067
• People for Pets: 933-6274