Essay contest

By Karen Gadke

Guest Contributor

POPLAR GROVE – An essay contest describing pet overpopulation, the reasons for this national disgrace as well as possible solutions, was conducted at Poplar Grove and Manchester Elementary Schools this spring.

Fourth graders participated in the contest for the third year (Poplar Grove) and second year (Manchester).  The contest was designed and funded by Capron-based Stateline Spay/Neuter and Education Fund (on Facebook).

This year’s title was:  “The Tragedy of Pet Overpopulation and What I Can Do to Bring about Change.”

The students chose to research and describe the different reasons for the suffering and killing of millions of homeless cats and dogs.  Some chose dogs, some chose cats, especially feral cats and their sad plight as an essay topic.

The students exhibited a clear grasp and understanding of this horror that has condemned millions of pets to death every year for more than five decades. They did an amazing job of describing the inhumane conditions prevailing in puppy mills, and also pointed to backyard breeders and irresponsible pet owners as the cause of the overpopulation.

The essays warned that most of the puppies sold in pet shops come from puppy mills, which they described as filthy kennels whose operators only care about money and have no compassion for the animals they neglect and often abuse.

The students suggested that the only way we can ever stop the suffering and waste of so many innocent furry lives is to stop buying pets from pet shops.  Most of the essays stated that the first choice when looking for a new pet should be to adopt one from a shelter.

Some of the students chose cat overpopulation and pointed out that millions of cats suffer and die without ever having a home.  Some of the students wrote that this occurs primarily because of unspayed family cats.  Some essays pointed out that one pregnant cat abandoned by her owner can produce hundreds of starving offspring in a short time, and they stressed the necessity for all cats to be spayed or neutered.

Of the Poplar Grove students Jasmin Kozak won first prize, Amaya Smoot, second, Dani Faraone, third, Maddie Wares, fourth, and Brielle Marchetti, fifth.

Prizes for Manchester School students were:  Haven Hahn, first prize, Devin Anderson, second, Danielle Goodman, third, Brandon Becker, fourth, Wyatt W. Bemis, fifth.

Here are a few examples of what some of the students had to say (some comments are paraphrased for the sake of brevity):

“Puppy mills do their job for pure profit.  Every year 2.11 million puppies are sold that originated from puppy mills.  They kill the mothers after they can no longer reproduce.  Puppy mills are bad places.  If you would like to put them out of business, then stop buying from pet stores and adopt from shelters or pounds.”

“One way to cut down on overpopulation is to outlaw puppy mills.  Puppy mills put dogs in cramped cages with no room to play or exercise. Dogs’ paws are found swollen and bleeding.  Their feet fall through the wire cages.  Their food and water are contaminated.  If you don’t buy from them they will eventually go out of business.”

“Ninety percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills, so it’s not a good idea to buy a puppy from a pet store.”

“I think puppy mill breeders need to stop.  I would’ve never thought this would happen to a man and woman’s best friend which is a dog or puppy.”

In addition to spaying or neutering cats to reduce overpopulation, it was pointed out by several students that sterilization will prevent some illnesses and make for gentler pets. It will especially reduce fighting of unneutered male cats.

Students also pointed out that shelters are overwhelmed and people should adopt to reduce crowding in shelters.

“I hope you will change this world with me and help make it a better place.  Buy from shelters instead of puppy mills and if you can, donate some money to a close shelter.  You should definitely get your pet spayed or neutered so they do not have unplanned litters,” one of the students wrote.

I am awed by the understanding these 9-year-olds had of the research they conducted, and by the solutions they came up with.

I have high hopes that these young people will clean up the mess my generation has not done in more than five decades.  I told the students that I have great confidence that their generation will not let this inhumanity to innocent creatures continue but that, as they have said in their essays, they will bring about the needed changes to alleviate the pain and suffering.

I asked the children to spread the word and educate those who are not aware of what’s going on.

Certificates of Accomplishment were donated by Print World of Belvidere.  Prizes were presented to the students by Karen Gadke of Stateline Spay/Neuter and Education Fund.



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