“Come on down!” Anyone that has ever watched the TV game show “The Price Is Right” recognizes these familiar words. Bob Barker, the longtime and iconic host of the show, passed away recently at the age of 99.
Equally well-known were the words Mr. Barker closed each show with since 1982: “Bob Barker, to remind you, help to control the pet population - have your pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye everybody!” No words were ever more true.
While it was a simple plea to a huge audience, it resonated throughout the world. The statement was his own and came after years of learning about animal welfare from his wife Dorothy Jo, as well as his own personal experiences with animal organizations. "I just felt compelled to do what I could to change the situation. And that's what I've been doing," he said. The lack of good homes for animals was the main issue behind it.
This message was put before us by Mr. Barker until 2007, when he stepped away as host of the game show. His successor, Drew Carey, continued the spay and neuter plea in his own words at the end of each show. Talk about the power to be a voice for change!
And in reality, it was not a plea to only pet owners but to all working to help animals. Why has the animal sheltering industry not adopted it? It is a simple equation: fewer homeless dogs and cats improves the chances of them finding good, loving homes. And isn’t that what we all want?
While Mr. Barker continued his daily plea, our industry leaders were putting their heads together to come up with their own ways to address animal homelessness and overcrowding, rolling out transporting and managed intake. While these are good for improved Live Release Rates and more donations, they don’t do anything to address the underlying issue: pet overpopulation. They are band-aids and not real solutions. And as we all know, band-aids eventually fall off because they are not a sustainable fix.
In previous blogs where I have addressed the importance of spay and neuter, I have had comments from some of those industry leaders saying you can’t just focus on spay and neuter. That is true. However, spay and neuter is the only part of the equation that makes any difference at all in addressing our overpopulation crisis. It is the most crucial part to make any difference. Pushing and funding spay and neuter looks to positively change the future for our animals. It represents a REAL plan of action that directly benefits our animals. It provides REAL foresight. It is NOT a band-aid.
We must realize that it will take years of prioritizing spay and neuter before we see the REAL results for our animals. We must be patient and understand this. We didn’t get in this situation overnight, it has been years of misguided efforts that pushed anything over spay and neuter.
Until the day is here when we have allowed spay and neuter to show it is the solution, we must help those animals that are suffering through homelessness, especially those relegated to our streets as a direct result of managed intake policies. It will be like operating two distinct programs - one for the future (spay/neuter) and one to help those homeless today. It will cost us a great deal of work and funding, but it will cost us and our animals even more to continue the status quo.
Thank you, Mr. Barker!
Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering. Beth has spent endless hours researching animal sheltering and analyzing shelter data from all over the US, including over 400 shelters. Click here to follow Proactive Animal Sheltering on Facebook.
Community Cats United, Inc. is a CommUNITY of over 100,000 including in all 50 US states and 127 countries.