Ahalf-dozen summers ago, members of the Sun Herald editorial board toured the two-year-old facilities of the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport. That visit produced an editorial which began:
"He was just a big, old, mangy dog. Bobtailed. Floppy eared. And about to die.
"Members of this editorial board encountered him one day last week as he was being taken into a euthanasia room at the Humane Society of South Mississippi's facility just north of Pass Road on U.S. 49 in Gulfport.
"We saw him, and the three cats in animal carriers stacked just outside the door awaiting a similar fate.
"We did not see them put to death. Or their bodies bagged for eventual disposal in a landfill in Alabama.
"But we saw enough.
"Enough to know that South Mississippians -- like too many other Americans -- are causing far too many cats and dogs to die needlessly.
"The numbers are shameful."
We went on to share the numbers and beg readers to halt this "slaughter of the innocent."
Gradually, the killing declined.
And in 2012, the Humane Society of South Mississippi for the first time avoided euthanizing any healthy adoptable pets.
To appreciate what an accomplishment that was, consider that during June of 2008, 1,734 cats and dogs were delivered to the Humane Society of South Mississippi by animal control officers and members of the public. Of those 1,734 animals, 1,216 were put to death. There was simply no room for them at an animal shelter designed to house 316 animals.
But dedicated individuals take on the task of reducing those horrible numbers.
Adoptions and foster care were passionately promoted. Spay and neuter programs were aggressively pursued. And slowly but surely, the numbers declined.
The Humane Society of South Mississippi became a point of pride for the entire community for its efforts to find a loving home for as many pets as possible.
Now those good works are threatened.
End this deadly duplication
The city of Gulfport has cut its ties with the Humane Society of South Mississippi and is setting up a second "animal shelter" in the city under the auspices of the Gulfport Police Department.
Money, of course, is cited by the city as the reason it may have to put in operation yet another slaughter house for cats and dogs. But the cost of saving money is high. While the Humane Society of South Mississippi's euthanasia rate is 23 percent, the Gulfport Police Department's is more than twice that, at 46.6 percent.
If Mayor Billy Hewes III and the City Council have any compassion for these helpless animals, they'll end this deadly duplication of services and negotiate a new contract with the Humane Society.
This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.