Okay, today I am going rogue…a bit away from how to cope with the loss of a pet. The reason why I am diverting from the norm, is because I have seen some really frustrating, maddening stories, and I need to vent. On Facebook, I have a number of groups that I am a part of regarding pets. There is Straydar (which is super helpful!), Alaskan Malamutes groups, I Love My Dog groups, community pages, local shelters, as well as friends who either work in shelters, animal behavior, or vets.
Outside of the pets who have been hit by cars or stolen, the most aggravating stories I see are people bringing their pets to the county shelters because they can’t or won’t care for them anymore. Why? Why do people abandon their pets to a shelter where they know the likely outcome is death?
Reason 1 – People Problems
Yes, this is a vague statement, but think about it. How many times have you heard excuses, I mean reasons, as to why a person can’t keep a pet. (It’s not you, it’s me….) There are both valid and ridiculous reasons to surrender your pet, and unfortunately, it is hard to differentiate between the two based on individual situations.
Here are some basic examples of valid versus invalid reasons.
- You have passed away
- You are extremely ill to where you are unable to provide care for your pet
- You are incarcerated
- Your immediate family members are deathly allergic, and cannot be near your pet
- Your financial ability to care for the pet has been compromised (although, there is a fine line on this one)
- You moved out of state or to a home that doesn’t allow pets
- Your significant other just doesn’t like your pet
- You had a new baby
- You don’t have time for your pet
- The pet is too expensive
- The list goes on.
As you can see there are valid reasons, and I do not fault the person who has done everything they can to provide for their pet. Unfortunately, there are times when the best decision is to rehome the pet(s).
On the flip side, too many people send pets to the county shelters or just drop them off in a different neighborhood for asinine reasons. I think there are a few reasons for this:
1. Education: So many people think a pet is cute, and to satisfy their want, they buy a pet without doing the research on the pet and how to care for them. For example, an Alaskan Malamute may not be the best pet for someone who hates to clean up fur, or who cannot learn that the breed requires leadership and training. How about a Jack Russel Terrier…they are high energy, high intellect dogs, who need to be working to keep themselves out of trouble.
2. The Cuteness Factor: We have paedomorphized pets in the media. (Aren’t cat videos the most watched videos on YouTube?) Movies and cartoons as well as some social media outlets show pets as big-eyed, lovable, squishy beings that only need food and love. Why not get one, right?
3. The Underdog: So this one may be a little more controversial. I think we have done a disservice in some ways for the pets that are seen as bully breeds. Animal welfare organizations and breed warriors have done so much to prove that these breeds are not as bad as people once saw them, that everyone wants one now. Take into consideration (especially in the SW), shelters are filled to capacity with these mostly Pitbulls. Why? Everyone wants to prove they have a good dog…and when they realize they don’t know how to train or care for them, they end up back behind bars.
Reason 2 – Animal Problems
Yep, this one is just as vague…and is the reason I am writing this post. There are various reasons why a pet may be rehomed or sent to a kill shelter because of who they are. Again, there are valid reasons as well as ridiculous reasons.
- They are aggressive towards people
- They are aggressive towards other animals
- They are sick
- They are old
- They have allergies
- They are injured
- They have some behavior issues
As you can see, there are fewer valid reasons to rehome a pet based on their quirks. If a pet is legitimately aggressive, then, yes, I agree they are not suited for your home; however, my hope would be that you work with the pet as much as possible to see what the root cause of the aggression is and if there is a way to correct it.
If it is true aggression, where your pet would not be safe in any other home, you should have the pet humanely euthanized at your vet’s office; not taken to a shelter or dropped off in another neighborhood (or desert!). This allows your pet to understand that you are with them until the end, but it also doesn’t subject others to your pet’s behavior. In addition, your pet sees his family instead of strangers in a strange place prior to passing over the Rainbow Bridge.
The entire reason I started writing this post is because of the invalid reasons. We have to understand our pets don’t have control over getting old or sick or having allergies, nor do they understand why they got hit by a car or attacked by a hawk. Our pets rely on us to care for their needs, to speak up for them, and…not abandon them in their time of need.
My mom adopted 2 of her puppies from an amazing rescue in the Phoenix area who specialize in wounded, sick, and old dogs that are brought into the county shelter. These dogs would be euthanized within days of arrival because the shelter did not have the resources to bring them back to health.
The owner of the non-profit has an incredible heart specifically for these dogs. Even if her shelter / sanctuary is at capacity, she does everything she can to pull the dog from the county shelter, have the medical needs cared for, and allow the pet to live out the rest of their days in a loving environment. Her and the volunteers want these dogs to know they are not alone in their journey. Not only do they bring these broken dogs in, they work to help others in the community who are struggling to care for their dogs medical needs.
Meet Teddy. He was adopted last year, but brought back to the shelter due to medical issues. A good Samaritan adopted him; however, needed help in obtaining funds to care for the multiple medical issues that Teddy was dealing with. Teddy’s leg was badly infected, has multiple tumors, and open wounds. He had ear infections in both ears, and they are waiting to hear back on if he has Valley Fever or Cancer.
Thank God for the donors and the owner of the non-profit who helped Teddy. If they had scrolled past the story from the county shelter, Teddy would have been euthanized.
The Reason for My Rant
Our pets need us. They rely on us to care for them, and to speak for them. Our pets don’t understand why we would send them away or abandon them. They expect to be a part of the family…like they were when they were young and/or healthy.
Why do people think it is a shelter’s responsibility to fix what they couldn’t or didn’t…? Is it because they don’t care, or is it lack of education? Is there something that society or the community can do to combat this human behavior? How can we spread the word that non-profit shelters need financial help and volunteers/fosters to fix the wrongs the person has done?
These pets are hurting, either physically, mentally, or both. And…we are not in an era where they can fend for themselves. They have become so reliant on our care that it is not fair to dump them in their hour of need.
So, what can we do?
1. Don’t get a pet unless you have researched the breed, pedigree, gender, size…everything… You need to understand what it is going to take to care for a pet, from basic needs to potentially poor health.
2. Don’t go with the “awww” factor. You need to add a family member that jives with your family. A Jack Russel may not mix with a quiet, sedentary lifestyle…
3. Do look into pet insurance. There are some plans out there that will be highly beneficial for the pet that you bring into the family. For example, if you have a puppy or kitten, a basic policy will help cover basic procedures, but also catastrophic events at a really good cost.
4. Do think about your lifestyle and how a pet will fit into it. Do you work crazy hours? Are you someone who likes to go on adventures? What type of home do you live in or where are you moving to?
5. Do understand your pet will get sick, injured, and old. Remember that they will be a part of the family to the end. If you feel that you are unable to care for them at those points, please do not get a pet.
6. Do donate to the shelters that care for these sick and aging pets. Without your help, they cannot give the pets the medical attention needed or the food to sustain them.
It’s not fair to our pets or the shelters to abandon them when our pet needs us the most. It’s selfish. Just because you think your heart may break because your pet is dying is a terrible reason for you to have someone else take care of the end process. Your pet needs you…and you need your pet.
If you are struggling to care for your pet’s medical needs, contact shelters in your community. Many of them offer free or low cost clinics to ensure your pets are healthy.
If you absolutely need to rehome a pet, go through the local organizations as well. They will be able to help you or tell you if your pet can be rehomed.
Overall, take responsibility. You adopted a pet, brought them into the family, and cared for them. That responsibility does not stop when they get sick, injured, or old.
Let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear what you have to say on this topic.