Tougher measures in order to curb stray pet problem.

Scores of people and their pooches gathered Sunday to help a good cause.

The Hound Hustle a 1.5-mile and 5-kilometer race for people running and walking with or without their dogs was organized by the Garden City Recreation Commission to benefit the Finney County Humane Society (FCHS), a volunteer group striving to see more pets adopted from the local animal shelter.

The FCHS continues to fight an uphill battle because many irresponsible pet owners fail to spay or neuter their dogs and cats, and allow then to run loose and create unwanted litters.

With a seemingly never-ending flood of stray and abandoned dogs and cats crowding the shelter, a staggering number of adoptable pets must be put down numbers that soar well beyond what's expected in a community this size.

While the Hound Hustle brought in funds for a good cause, the event also helped raise awareness of the need for more foster homes to give those shelter animals running out of time a second chance.

Interaction with families helps dogs and cats in foster care become at ease living in a home, and more likely to be adopted.

The local humane society also has done its best to address the extraordinarily high unwanted pet population by encouraging more people to have their pets sterilized. The organization has a good, low-cost spay and neuter program, and received another boost to the program in funds collected during the Hound Hustle.

But all the generous contributions never are enough to reverse the trend, unfortunately, which is why city and county officials should pursue tough measures, such as requiring shelter animals to be sterilized before they're released.

Ideally, any additional cost to address the issue would be offset by savings in animal control-related expenses.

While people and their pets had fun during the recent Hound Hustle, it also was necessary to consider the sad lot of less fortunate dogs and cats left to languish at the local shelter. It's time for local officials to pursue new strategies that put some teeth into efforts to address a disturbing community problem.