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Dog Day Afternoon

"Adopt a Stray on Bunny Day" seeks families for homeless pets


When Richard Camp, founder of the St. Louis Metropolitan Animal Responsibility Team (START), says that the animal pounds serving the city of San Francisco euthanized zero dogs and cats last year, why is it so hard to believe him? Because here in the St. Louis area, we are killing 83 animals every day.

Although a few cities have managed to win the war by increasing demand for adoptable animals and educating folks about the essentialness of spaying and neutering, Camp says, St. Louis is still battling uphill to promote responsible pet ownership and avert the tragic killing of about 25,000 unclaimed and unadopted dogs and cats per year in our area.

"Shelters in the city and county are absolutely jammed," he adds. "Down in the city pound, they've got four or five animals in every run. You go down there and it's very loud, because they're putting so many animals in the same cage."

That's where events such as "Adopt a Stray on Bunny Day" can really make a difference. On Easter Sunday, representatives of shelters in St. Louis and St. Louis County, as well as surrounding counties in the bi-state area, will gather in Forest Park for a grand adopt-a-thon featuring more than 150 dogs and puppies and more than 100 cats and kittens. Those interested in adopting pets will find them all "spayed, neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and beautifully groomed," says Camp.

Y98-FM will broadcast live from the gathering, and PetSmart will operate a ministore in the midst of the adoption tents. SMART will be coordinating similar events in July and in the fall.

The one-day gathering of stray animals from so many agencies is unprecedented for St. Louis, says Camp, but the formula has proved successful in other cities. "We have gathered together 12 totally diverse animal shelters in one place," he says. "This is totally unheard-of in St. Louis. They did this in Salt Lake City a couple years ago, and they had 392 animals adopted."

When events such as the Easter adopt-a-thon succeed, he adds, "we've kept them from killing a lot of animals, we've made a lot of wonderful pets for people and we've allowed the city animal shelters to get out and get more animals off the street. Of course, it's a never-ending battle until people become responsible and get their animals spayed and neutered and stop having all the litters. It's going to be a constant battle -- how many animals are we going to have to kill this week?"

Camp says his efforts to rescue stray animals were jump-started by one dog. "There was a epiphany in my life, and his name was Trent," he says. "Trent was a pit bull I found walking down 18th Street, trailing a 20-foot, 30-pound chain that was padlocked around his neck to the point that his neck was bleeding. I captured Trent, and we cleaned him up and fixed him up and found him a home.

"Trent should never have been born. I know he was in dogfights -- we have to put a stop to that. Trent was abused all his life ... that was the epiphany."

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