In our opinion: Homeless animals need statewide support

This is the final week in The Sun’s “Help for Homeless Pets” series. For four weeks, we have looked at the state of homeless pets in our region. We interviewed heads of animal shelters, volunteers with rescues and foster families. We talked intake numbers, live release rates and — this week — how to potentially solve such a staggering problem.

There’s no easy solution.

All of these non-profits are playing a huge role in a very public problem. They’re doing the best they can — and the best they can is nothing to sneeze at — but unfortunately, it’s not enough. What these non-profits need is more public support.

All of our interviewees agreed that a big part of moving forward is education — about the vital importance of spaying and neutering, about ensuring all pets are microchipped, about the lifetime commitment of owning a pet.

This is what we believe the next step is — an organization that spearheads the homeless animal education campaign. There is no public education about homeless animals at the state level, and that’s where this should start. Think “Click It or Ticket.” Think “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” These programs have state funding to target a statewide problem that needs fixing, and homeless animals are most definitely a statewide problem that needs to be fixed.

It’s true there are excellent education campaigns already in place at a local level. Our shelters and rescues work hard to inform the public, whether it is with advertising low-cost spay and neuter clinics or offering free training seminars for problem pets. But everything comes down to money, and between feeding and housing animals, paying employees and purchasing much-needed items for facilities, these shelters and rescues — even banded together within towns and counties — can only do so much in the realm of educating the public.

There is strength in numbers. What if there were more groups such as the Camden County Animal Alliance, and each had a representative who reported to one state-level organization? What if these alliances helped create a state-run alliance solely focused on educating the public on finding a solution to the homeless animal problem?

The overarching goal of every animal shelter and rescue is to not exist. Are the employees and volunteers of these organizations passionate? Of course they are. But that doesn’t mean they would rather not be needed, because if they’re not needed, that means every homeless animal — every last dog, cat, rabbit and hamster — has a home.

And to make this happen, there needs to be more public support. There needs to be more public education. And if the state government got behind it, we would be one step closer to a home for every homeless pet.