I just returned from the vet where I had a 13-year-old cat put down. Buster was his name and he was, quite simply, the most loving cat I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, though his heart had the capacity for great love it didn’t have the capacity to keep him strong and he went into congenital heart failure.

Buster wasn’t even my cat. Not really, though he was working his feline magic on my whole family. We took him in as a foster animal when his owner could no longer keep him. Buster and his brother Romeo arrived, ostensibly for two weeks until a rescue group had room for them.

Close to two months and a doomed shelter stay later (I ended up retrieving the two of them when I learned that the rescue group had left them at a shelter which had the reputation of selling unadoptable pets to labs for research), Buster simply couldn’t handle any more stress on his body or his emotions.

But mixed in with my sadness is anger. February 23 was Spay Day, created of course to bring public awareness to the number of unwanted animals and beseech owners to have their pets spayed and neutered.

Yet here I am, owner of three (four until this morning) cats, three dogs, and one rabbit. All rescue animals that were in shelters, dumped on roadsides or seized by humane society officials responding to calls of neglect and abuse. They’re all incredible animals who have enriched our lives immeasurably. But, given the choice, I would prefer they’d never been born.

Like children, animals should be born into circumstances that welcome and support their development. Where resources exist to ensure their proper care, nourishment and attention. There should be no breeding of animals due to lack of spay/neuter. Or just to give kids an intimate glimpse of new life. Or, God forbid, to supply pet stores.

It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. There are too many animals languishing in shelters and not enough homes available to them.

If you’re a pet owner, please get your pets spayed or neutered. If you are looking for a pet, look no further than your local shelter, rescue group or visit Petfinder. com, where you’ll find, literally, thousands and thousands of beautiful animals – some purebred, most not; some puppies, most not – desperate for a home.

You can also find out more by getting involved in Spay Day, including where to send donations to allow local organizations to offer reduced rates for their spay services.

Please do what you can. My house is full.

Leslie Garrett is a national award-winning journalist, author and editor, based near Toronto, Canada. She is the author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World and she has also written a dozen children’s books, including a biography of renowned environmentalist David Suzuki and “EarthSmart”, a book for young children on protecting the environment.

Visit: http://www. virtuousconsumer. com/

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