First Dog: A Presidential Promise and Animal Lives


Published: January 29, 2009

Imagine yourself going on a neighborhood stroll. Then picture yourself on four legs—panting, adventurous and hungry, your tail wagging from side to side. Suddenly a stranger ties you up and pulls you along. At this point, you become conscious of the fact that you are no longer on the sidewalk. You are then loaded onto a truck and plunged into darkness. As time passes, light finally comes into view, and you are locked up in a cage. A cacophony of meows, barks and unidentifiable whimpers fill your ears. Startled, you peep out and find rows of lonesome animals looking back at you. Every expression here is pitiful.

Welcome to life in an animal shelter.

Throughout America, many of our homeless, four-legged friends are brought into these animal shelters after they are found roaming the streets. Many animals are captured by animal control and brought into these shelters. Here, the animals are supposed to be examined, vaccinated and then monitored by staff. While many shelters house stray animals, the shelters differ. Conditions in these shelters vary wildly. An evaluation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suggests that while some of these facilities are “wonderful places,” many others are “hideous dumps.”

The number of stray animals is going up these days because the struggling economy is making it harder for many to afford to take care of pets or pay for animals to be spayed or neutered. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that 6 to 8 million dogs and cats have to be cared for in animal shelters throughout the year. As a result, many shelters are always full. Because of this vicious demand for limited space to accommodate them, many of these animals are not given a chance to live. Consequently, large numbers of animals end up euthanized. The HSUS estimates that 3 to 4 million shelter animals are put to death annually.

For this reason, many shelters are in need of serious reform. While shelters throughout the nation may have dedicated staff members, we should all understand that poor shelter conditions and inadequate space deteriorates the level of treatment each animal deserves. In order to improve these conditions, PETA says, “citizen involvement is essential if progress is to be made.”

Thankfully, Americans are starting to learn about the conditions of animals in these shelters. According to Best Friends Animal Society, since President Barack Obama’s publicly announced that he planned to get a puppy for his two daughters, approximately 50,000 people have signed a petition urging the Obama family to adopt a dog from a shelter. Furthermore, various other Web sites such as have emerged to allow the general public to contribute suggestions to the Obamas on what type of puppy they should adopt. I am certain that Obama’s decision to adopt from a shelter would help increase awareness of the pitiful lives of these sheltered animals.

With the numbers of animals entering the system continuously increasing, there must be at least one puppy available for adoption. Obama should do the best that he can to adopt his puppy from a shelter. Although the shelters serve as a temporary home for many of these animals, new owners can make the lives of these animals much better through pet adoption. Breeders may seemingly sell more desirable animals, but the animals in shelters can be just as cute and deserve just as much love and affection. This is why I am counting on the Obamas to adopt a shelter dog as the next First Dog. If he does, I hope that more Americans will follow his lead and liberate a sheltered animal.