6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters every year in the USA. 3 to 4 million of these are euthanized by shelters each year. Almost 25% of the shelter residents are pure bred. (source). Humane societies and other animal rescue groups large and small frequently quote these statistics to underscore the tragic reality of pet overpopulation and the attendant consequences that culminate in an untimely end to a life of misery for some innocent animal.
In addition to the sheer waste of precious lives, this crisis has other effects: "...the transformation of some animal shelters into "warehouses," the acceptance of cruelty to animals as a way of life in our society, and the stress that caring shelter workers suffer when they are forced to euthanize one animal after another. Living creatures have become throwaway items to be cuddled when cute and abandoned when inconvenient. Such disregard for animal life pervades and erodes our culture." (source)
Statistics are useful in making the case for animal rescue, spay, neuter, fostering, and adoption from shelters. Statistics are likely to inspire people to make charitable donations to causes that combat the crisis. Statistics are also capable of inspiring one to volunteer one's time, talent, money, and influence and become involved with a local rescue group.
Ultimately, however, the transition from a statistics-inspired volunteer to an animal rescue crusader happens at a very individual, personal level. Stories and faces have a far greater power to move a soul than numbers however large. Romeo's story is an example of putting a face to the abstract notion of 'helping animal rescue'. Romeo is a featured UHA pet - he was hit by a car, did not receive the proper medical attention, and his femur healed incorrectly causing him to limp around in a lot of pain. The cost of the major surgery he requires (femoral head ostectomy) may have condemned him - many pet owners have to make the painful decision of putting their companion animal to sleep if money is not available and cannot be raised. Fortunately for Romeo, there are people who care enough to dedicate themselves to raising the money and donors who are willing to contribute small and large amounts to help him recover.
Featured pets and websites apart, there is no substitute to visiting your local shelter, looking into the eyes of a waggy-tailed "owner surrender" and realizing the truth behind the lines oft-quoted in animal rescue circles:
Better to light a candle for one lost dog
than to curse the darkness of man's indifference.
Saving just one dog won't change the world
but it surely will change the world for that one dog. (source)