Expanded animal shelter will let humanity shine
When I was a young boy in Duluth in the 1930s I would occasionally see the dog catcher's truck and feel a terrible sadness knowing that many of the animals in the back would soon be put down. How could it be, I thought to myself, that my own dogs...
When I was a young boy in Duluth in the 1930s I would occasionally see the dog catcher's truck and feel a terrible sadness knowing that many of the animals in the back would soon be put down. How could it be, I thought to myself, that my own dogs were treated as beloved members of the family while the equally lovable animals in the back of the dog catcher's truck were being disposed of like so much trash? Shouldn't all dogs be accorded the same consideration and care regardless of whether they are temporarily without an owner?
Such is the wisdom of children that my idealistic yearning for a more humane community has since become the common yearning of all Duluthians, and we have come a long way as a result. Today, far fewer animals become homeless, many more of those are adopted, fewer have to be put down, those that do have to be put down are euthanized as humanely as possible, and the dog catcher of old has been replaced by skilled city of Duluth employees devoted to the well being of animals.
Unfortunately, our work is not yet done. Yes, homelessness and the number of animals that have to be euthanized have dropped dramatically in the last 25 years. However, even today, more than 2,000 animals per year become homeless in Duluth, and more than 500 of those have to be put down. Most of the animals that have to be put down are healthy and well-behaved cats and dogs that would have made wonderful pets. The humane ethic that is growing ever stronger in our community says that every individual pet's life matters. With that as our guiding light, we must continue our work for animals until every Duluth pet has a loving home and no healthy pet has to be put down.
Thankfully, Animal Allies Humane Society, the nonprofit that has led the humane revolution in our community for the past 50 years, has a plan to fulfill the dream of a home for every pet. It's called Homeward Bound, and it is a plan to build a 10,000-square-foot animal shelter at the corner of Rice Lake Road and Airport Road that would reduce animal suffering by increasing adoptions, by providing a healthy and happy temporary home for homeless pets, and by decreasing overpopulation, homelessness, and euthanasia.
The facility also would enable low-income households who might not otherwise be able to afford a vaccinated, micro-chipped and sterilized pet to enjoy the life- and health-enriching benefits of pet ownership while providing more opportunities for children to build character and caring while learning about and enjoying animals. In addition, the facility would save taxpayer dollars by dramatically reducing the number of homeless animals under the city's care.
The shelter would make Duluth's neighborhoods safer by decreasing the stray-animal population and by enabling Duluth police to spend less time on animal care and more time out in the community picking up strays and dealing with dangerous animals.
This community project is called Homeward Bound because the heart and soul of the campaign is, in a word, home -- that place of safety and love where humans and their pets live together as a family and give joy and comfort to one another. It is here in the context of home and family that the profound importance of pets to people, and the profound importance of Homeward Bound to the Duluth community, is most dramatically on display.
The Homeward Bound capital campaign has raised nearly $3.1 million toward the $3.9 million cost of the project. A number of community leaders are working together to help raise the remainder before construction is completed in early winter. My family and I encourage everyone in the community to do as we have done and generously support the campaign, according to your means.
Duluth children today no doubt feel the same sadness I felt so long ago at the knowledge that hundreds of healthy, adoptable animals continue to be euthanized. They are right to feel sad and we should heed their yearning for a community where every pet is assured of a loving home. Please consider a five-year pledge to Homeward Bound so that, together, we can make that beautiful dream finally come true.
Bob Mars Jr. of Duluth is an honorary co-chairman of the Homeward Bound capital campaign.