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Wesley V. Metzler 

DVM Executive director, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

Wearing a hard hat and toting a clipboard, Wes Metzler gives unabashedly enthusiastic tours of the city animal shelter's almost-ready new digs. The new facility was paid for with both private donations and tax dollars, and, no doubt, it's going to be a major improvement over the noisy, cramped, concrete-and-chain-link complex that now houses shelter operations. But we didn't want to talk about that. Our agenda? Pet gifts gone bad, male penis insecurity and the tempting aroma of dog meat.

Why do so many people give back pets that were given to them for Christmas? A lot of times, what happens is that Aunt Suzy loses her cat, and someone thinks, "Let's surprise her and get her a cat." Well, Aunt Suzy may not want another cat. So when people give a pet, and they really haven't thought it through -- that's when there's a problem.

But I don't want to discourage a family or a couple from getting a pet if it's a decision that they all made and thought through. Another aspect of it, though, is that very often over the holidays, people bring a pet into a hectic situation. There are a lot of people and kids running around.

So if you do adopt over the holiday, plan ahead. Set aside a quiet room somewhere for the animal to get adjusted before you bring it out to meet everybody. It's tempting to pay a lot of attention to a new pet. But sometimes it's better to just back off a bit and let it adjust slowly with good, steady love.

Should people wait until after the holidays to take a pet home? Sure, and we can hold a pet until after the holidays if they want. It will still be here.

How many animals get euthanized on a yearly basis? About 18,000 animals come through the shelter each year. Of that, about 7,500 are adopted, another 7,000 are returned to their owners. Another 2,000 are brought here specifically to be euthanized, because they're old or aggressive. And about 2,000 are euthanized, because we can't find anyone to adopt them.

Is there a solution to this problem? I think there is a solution, and, in fact, I think we're improving. In Colorado Springs, in the 1970s, the shelter took in 20,000 to 25,000 animals a year. At that time, the city was about half the size it is now.

Why is that? Licensing and education have played a role. For example, we have a lot fewer litters of puppies coming in nowadays. Also, the male population is getting better about neutering their male dogs.

What's up with that anyway? I don't know, I guess they associate their maleness and sexual prowess [with the dog's], and they think, "I wouldn't want that to happen to me," so ...

Speaking of taboos, some people have said we should eat euthanized animals, so they don't just get dumped in the landfill. I think that idea is totally foreign to our society and philosophy. ... As a matter of fact, I think we're going in the other direction, with the idea that animals have more and more human-type rights. I think we have to think carefully about that -- giving animals equal status with people. We'll just have to see what happens.

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