While on Valentine's Day we show our love for other humans, Feb. 20 is "National Love Your Pet Day," where we turn to our four-legged friends to show them how much we love having them around. The Humane Society estimates there are 67 million households that have pets, and that there are 164 million pets with those families. The pet industry made $58 billion in sales in 2014. This includes retail pet stores, online sales, grooming, pet hotels, innovative pet product manufacturing and even pet funerals. Considering the cosmetic and toy industries brought in $56 billion and $22 billion, respectively, the pet business has turned into a significant piece of our economy. On Feb. 20, we should not only be loving our pets but thanking them for helping drive our economic recovery!
Sadly, we often hear about pets being abused all over the country. Just in 2015, the former mayor of Sorrento, Louisiana, was accused of torturing and abusing cats. There's also the retired Phoenix police officer whose case is known as "Noah's Ark." She collected over 100 animals such as zebras, horses, chickens and pigs and kept them without proper shelter, food or water. Then there's the individual cruelty, like the dog in San Diego whose owner used rubber bands as a muzzle and caused severe injuries to the poor dog's face. When does our morality of the sacredness of kindness in life kick in? This disregard of compassion for animals cuts to the core of human nature. It is not only about how we treat our beloved best animal friends. In a sense, it is about how we treat each other.
So where do these unwanted, unloved animals go? According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), there are 13,600 community animal shelters nationwide. There are 7.6 million animals entering shelters each year, of which 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats. Each year, 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats are euthanized. In 2014, 1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats were adopted. Of the strays coming into shelters, 540,000 dogs and 100,000 cats are returned to their owners. This means that 35 percent of dogs are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized and 26 percent are returned to their owners. For cats, 37 percent are adopted, 41 percent are euthanized and only five percent are returned to their owners.
There is a major strain on our community animal shelters this time of year. With the temperature below freezing in many parts of the country, it does not take long for an animal to freeze to death when left outside. Luckily for these animals, compassionate communities do take action. For instance, Cleveland just passed a new law to protect animals being left outdoors without shelter. The city ordinance requires that any animal left outside have shelter large enough to stand up, turn around and lie down in freely; and the shelter must have one entrance and exit with a door or flap to protect the animal from the elements. Besides weather, the inhumanity of our fellow human beings continues to burden these underfunded shelters. The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter just took in over 70 dogs that were seized in a major dogfighting operation that was raided by police and led to indictments of 22 members of this dogfighting ring. Evidence seized in this case included firearms, treadmills, breaking sticks, heavy chains, steroids and bloodstained dogfighting rings. I just cannot image the physical and psychological wounds these abused animals now have.
It falls back on all of us to have the heart to help defenseless animals that can't speak for themselves. There are plenty of concerned organizations that need our support to fight animal abuse -- great nonprofits like ASPCA, The Humane Society, and The American Humane Association. There are also many lesser-known animal nonprofits like World Animal Protection or Best Friends Animal Society. At DollarDays we are giving away $5,000 in products to animal shelters on our Facebook page this month. Remember to nominate your favorite shelter that can use our help. If you can't support these helpless animals with money, donate your time to help care for them at the shelters. All shelters welcome people who will feed, walk and groom these ignored animals.
Those of us with pets know they provide therapeutic benefits for many of life's invisible scars. Our pets help us socially and emotionally. The unconditional love pets give us transcends work issues, family conflicts and death. Animals don't care about the color of your skin, whether you can read or not, or if you are missing a limb. So not only during this "Love Your Pet Day" honoring our best friends but all month long, do the right thing. Donate to animal shelters and organizations to help care for these innocent animals. Volunteer at your local shelter to help the animals cope with being alone. No one wants to be alone, and your simple act of kindness goes a long way for animals that don't have anyone.