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A day in the life of an animal advocate

Temma Martin is passionate about solving the problem of pet overpopulation.  She has worked her entire adult life to help the public understand the devastating plight of homeless and abused pets. She has been their official spokesperson in her duties for Salt Lake City Animal Services and now for the Utah Adoption Center.  Here are excerpts from our recent interview:

What are your job responsibilities as an animal advocate?

First of all, I like to call myself an animal welfare advocate.  It is my job to increase public awareness about pet overpopulation.  In my job for Salt Lake City Animal Services, I worked a lot with the media.  That shelter was the largest one in Utah and was a traditional shelter.  They took in 10,000 – 12,000 animals a year and had to euthanize when they were overcrowded.  I expanded the awareness of the problem to every newspaper and television station in Salt Lake City.  Every week I visited every TV station with our cats and dogs showing people the pets available for adoption.

In my new job for the Utah Adoption Center, I do public relations, public education and work with volunteers.  We are a “no-kill” shelter which is a big change for me.  The TV stations have been very nice and opened spots for me to show our pets that need homes.

Where does your organization get the cats and dogs?

They mostly come from traditional animal shelters. The shelters e-mail us when they put animals on the euthanasia list and try to rescue as many as we can.  We also get some owner turn-ins.

Are the pets spay/neutered at your facility?

They are spay/neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped.  If a shelter does not do spay/neuter, they are voting for euthanasia because a lot of people will not follow through on their own.

Are you seeing any new trends with the slowdown in the economy?

Yes, we are getting more purebred dogs and lots of smaller purebreds.  You never used to see that.

I understand that you recently adopted a new dog.

Maizy is a black lab and she is 3-years-old.  I adopted her because big black dogs have a harder time finding homes.  People actually skip over them.  Her family kept her in a kennel and she has had several litters of puppies and then one day they didn’t want her anymore.  I don’t understand how a family could not want her.  Maizy is grateful everyday.  Her tail even wags in her sleep.  She fit in with my other pets really well.  She comes to work with me everyday and sits under my desk.  Rescuing a shelter dog is like getting a lifetime of unconditional love.

What do you want people to know about pet overpopulation?

First of all, I want them to know that every decision they make either hurts of helps the overall problem of overpopulation.  Every time someone buys a cat or dog from a pet store they are creating a demand because that store will call the puppy mill and order another animal, to re-stock.

Also, I hear from people all the time that they would only adopt from a no-kill shelter and would never adopt from a traditional (city owned) shelter because they euthanize the animals.  Those shelters cannot (legally) turn away an animal and they only euthanize when there are too many pets.  Punishing them does not make any sense; it only hurts the animals.  It is not the shelter’s fault that someone made an irresponsible choice that is now hurting the community.

Temma, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the great work you do as the voice for homeless and abused cats and dogs in Utah.

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