Albuquerque, New Mexico has a puppy problem. In December, city shelters took in 347 abandoned or surrendered puppies. That number, of course, doesn’t include all the adult dogs that also entered the shelter that month. So what will become of all these potential pets? The shelters and rescue groups will do their best to adopt them out. But the reality is that a number of the dogs – and puppies – will be killed.
According to the city’s Animal Welfare Department, “Every year, thousands of kittens and puppies are born into short lives of suffering and death in Albuquerque because people did not spay or neuter their pets. There are simply not enough homes for the animals that are born because of this type of neglect.”
This “neglect” is certainly not unique to residents of Albuquerque; all over the country there are people who find one reason or another not to spay or neuter their pet. But the city is launching a campaign it hopes will result in fewer litters. The campaign is one part media blitz – public service announcements, banners on buses, and water bill inserts will proclaim the import of spaying and neutering – and one part action – the Animal Welfare Department will offer free and low-cost surgeries to low- and moderate-income residents.
I learned about the public service announcement via a KOAT-TV news story on the web. I love the PSA. I dislike the news story.
First, the PSA. The idea behind it: If you think an unintended pregnancy is a serious problem for you, you should know it’s just as serious for your pet – and its offspring. In one scene a good-looking young couple sits at a kitchen table with an open pregnancy test in front of them.
Woman: I can’t believe this is happening.
Man: It was your responsibility.
Woman: I should have gotten her spayed when I had the chance.
Cue the cat: It jumps onto the table and meows loudly.
In another scene a man is watching TV when the phone rings. Upon answering it he hears a male voice yell, “Your boy got my girl pregnant!” The “boy” is the handsome husky viewers see chewing a bone on the couch. “I knew I should have gotten you neutered,” the man says to his dog.
It’s a great ad: Hopefully the humor will get people watching and the message will get people acting.
Now to the news story, which you can watch here. It got my journalism hackles up for two reasons. First, the light, fun tone of the story belies the seriousness of the issue it’s covering. For example, the reporter leads into her story saying of the city’s problem, it’s “a cute one.” Second, and this is really what’s most significant, is nowhere in the news story does the reporter explain the tragic consequences of pet overpopulation. It’s not crowded shelters, as mentioned in the piece. It’s the unnecessary euthanizing of healthy animals. This fact – perhaps the most important in a story about pet overpopulation – was completely left out.
What do you think? Am I critiquing this story through an advocate’s eyes rather than a journalist’s? I don’t think so. What I do think is that the city of Albuquerque deserves kudos for its campaign. As for KOAT-TV, it dropped the ball on a very important story.