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Bob Barker was quite the animal advocate during his time as host of “The Price is Right.”

Sometime in the early 1980s he became a vocal supporter for animal rights and at the same time began ending his show with a simple message: “Help control the animal population; have your pet spayed or neutered.”

When Barker retired from The Price is Right in 2007, incoming host Drew Carey picked up the signature sign-off and continued what the folks here at the Humane Society of the Black Hills consider to be a fine use of television time.

How many people were prompted to spay and neuter their pets thanks to Barker’s simple message we can never know. One? One thousand? It doesn’t matter — each one counts. Each animal spayed or neutered is one that lives a better life and doesn’t contribute to the unfortunate reality of exploding animal populations.

Animal overpopulation is an issue nationwide and, yes, it’s an issue right here in our community. It’s estimated that somewhere around 8 million unwanted animals find themselves in shelters each year and up to 3 million never make it out of those shelters. The humane society sees more than 5,000 animals of that 8 million and, sadly, some never make it out.

At the Humane Society of the Black Hills we’re fortunate to have a network of support for animals that includes the community, city government, the police department, generous donors, civic groups, volunteers, and so many others. This network — each group or individual in his or her own way — is part of the solution to animal management in our communities. For instance, volunteers help socialize the animals readying them for adoption; civic groups help with seemingly impossible projects and make molehills out of what we thought were mountains; donors and supporters provide food, shelter, and financial resources; and, the city bolsters our mission with well-conceived ordinances.

So, while the animal population is being managed, there are simply too many animals for the families available.

The solution to this problem isn’t to simply find 3 million more homes in the United States to put these animals in but rather to decrease the number of unwanted animals in the first place. In our three summer months — June, July and August — the humane society took in about 350 dog strays; cats are more prolific, however, and in that same time period we took in about 650 stray cats. That wasn’t this year; that was this summer.

We take those numbers seriously and have resolved to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, so it’s baked into our mission that no animal leaves the Humane Society of the Black Hills without being spayed or neutered. Locally, there are several people sharing this goal to see local animal population controlled through spay and neuter. There are neighborhoods actively participating in trap/neuter/return programs, there are veterinarians offering spay and neuter, and there are programs to offer low-cost services based on income such as SNIP it and Operation Pets. And then there are people like one person online who, after we ran a YouTube video of Bob Barker’s signature sign-off, commented: “I quote his line to people I know all the time!! lol”

It all makes a difference.

Until there’s a perfect harmony between the number of available families and the number of available pets, we’ll continue our mission: Serve Animals. Serve Community; we’ll continue to require all pets adopted be spayed or neutered; and, we’ll continue to support efforts to manage local animal populations.

For now, with a nod to Bob Barker, I’ll end this column with his simple message: Help control the animal population, have your pet spayed or neutered.

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Have a comment for the Humane Society of the Black Hills? Something you would like to see addressed in a future column? Email Executive Director Jerry Steinley at operations@hsbh.org.

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