Billboards Send Strong Message

Drive north on Highway 49 or on Hewes Avenue and you'll see the large black and white billboards put up by the Humane Society of South Mississippi. The slogan next to the basket of kittens is pretty frank -- "One kitten in the whole basket will be adopted. The others will be put to sleep."

"Ultimately in that basket of seven kittens, we're saying you can pick one and just kiss the rest goodbye, because we cannot find enough homes for all these animals," Humane Society Director Karen Sinopoli said.

The staggering breeding statistics show why that's true. Over a six-year period, an unspayed female dog, her mate, all of their puppies and all of the puppies puppies can have 67,000 offspring.

"They have seven and eight puppies at a time," shelter manager March McDaniel said. "You don't have seven and eight friends every time your animals has puppies or kittens."

McDaniel sees the thousands of animals that come into the Gulfport shelter each year. She knows that only about 20 percent of them will find good homes.

"For every 10 adoptions, every 10 animals that leave, we get in 15, so there's never enough room. There's not enough homes," McDaniel said.

The billboards promote spaying and neutering, something many pet owners don't do for various reasons.

"It doesn't change their personality. It doesn't stop them from growing up to be the caring family pet, to help guard your household and everything else," McDaniel said. "All it does is stop them from reproducing."

Sinopoli says, "Breeding season is already starting up. Animals are going into their cycles for breeding. Cats have three breeding seasons a year, dogs have two."

And the results of that uncontrolled breeding fill up a shelter that ran out of room a long time ago.

The Humane Society of South Mississippi is the largest shelter in the state, Last year, it took in more than 16,000 unwanted animals.