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The drip on my hand from her wet nose and the warmth of her tongue gracing over my rings immediately made my eyes fill with tears.

Like any dog, she made me smile. But I knew there was a high possibility that she would die within the next week.

Orange County Animal Services is a place where its goal is "to match homeless shelter pets with loving, forever homes," according to its website.

Hundreds of dogs and cats line the walls of the fluorescent-lit back rooms, where they are either sleeping on the floor or waiting at their cage door for someone to notice them.

I have always been a huge animal lover — my dream job for most of my life was actually to be a veterinarian.

Yes, this place is taking care of the animals that are dropped off. But after approximately five to 10 days, the care must move on to other animals.

On its website, there are currently six pages of 124 dogs and eight pages of 166 cats up for adoption. Although each animal has a photo with a different description, the photos share one common statement: "I have been at Orange County Animal Services since [date]. My due out date is [date]."

After no more than about 10 days, the animals are euthanized.

"Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized — 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats," according to the ASPCA website.

Animal euthanasia has been going on since the '60s, and several people have tried to stop it.

I am pretty sure I can't completely put an end to this act, but I feel that I must raise awareness of the number of animals being euthanized in our world.

When someone wants a pet, the first stop may be a PetSmart or Petland. But I believe we must change our direction and head to an animal shelter.

These animals in shelters are being put to sleep within days. This is unacceptable.

I tried to reach out to the Orange County Animal Services' Marketing & Public Relations spokeswomen for a comment, but have yet to receive a response.

At the shelter, the purple-painted paw prints on the floor and the increasing sound of barking led me to the backroom of sad puppy eyes — something I cannot handle.

I knew what I was getting myself into when I arrived at the shelter, but I had no idea the amount of pain my heart could feel from one step into a room.

I stood there for a second and just stared at the cages that were lined to my right and left. Staring at me in a cage on my left was Ursula, the dog with the wet nose and warm tongue.

On her cage, a card displayed her name, age and date of arrival, which was a few days ago.

I sat down at her cage and stuck my hand through the bars. She backed away because she was very shy — as it read on her card — but she got used to me and started licking my whole hand.

Of course, I started crying. I knew what would happen in the next few days if no one looked at her the way I did.

Ursula is one of the hundreds of animals that need our help. If you're looking for a new furry friend to love and care for, please visit a shelter.

Orange County Animal Services is one of more than 3,000 shelters in the nation, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

With a simple change in our path, more animals from shelters will be adopted, and more lives will be saved.

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Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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