“We just couldn’t keep him,” the woman said into her cell phone. She was ahead of me in line at Target, and it was clear she was talking about a dog when she added, “So John took him to the pound last week. I know he’s better off there. They’ll find a good home for him, and it saves us the trouble of placing an ad and taking phone calls from strangers.”
I’m continually amazed at how ignorant some people are; how misinformed people can be.
No pet is ever “better off” in a shelter, stuck in a tiny kennel with limited human interaction, competing with dozens of other pets for the chance to be adopted.
No pet is ever better off exposed to kennel cough and other life-threatening diseases.
I believe there are legitimate reasons why a person might need to give up a pet. Illness, death of a family member, loss of a job, these are just a few circumstances that might make a family think they can no longer care for a pet.
I also believe that many people give up too easily.
For example, rather than take the time to train a dog to properly behave, they give up on him and decide to get rid of him.
Then, instead of making the effort to re-home the pet themselves, they irresponsibly choose to let someone else do the legwork. They push the animal off on someone else and hope for the best.
But even in the best shelter, animals suffer. They may become depressed or scared or aggressive. Confinement in a cold, noisy place changes even the sweetest animal, making it take on behaviors that are normally out of character for that pet, and obviously these behaviors only make it harder for the pet to get adopted.
Have you heard the story about the family that took their dog, Tucker, to the local animal control facility, only to change their minds less than an hour later?
But it was too late – their dog had already been euthanized for supposedly becoming aggressive and trying to bite shelter employees.
This is obviously not the “happily ever after” the family had in mind when they made the decision to take their dog to the shelter. They fully expected the shelter would find a safe, loving home for the dog. But that’s not what happened, and the result was tragic.
Had the family made responsible decisions, the outcome could’ve been vastly different.
It’s simple to do the right thing. It’s certainly not rocket science. A few thoughts:
- If you decide to get a pet, do the research. Learn about the breed you’re considering and make sure it fits your lifestyle. Don’t make an impulsive decision to adopt (and for Pete’s sake, don’t buy from a pet store!).
- Be a responsible pet owner. Properly vaccinate, socialize, and train your pet. Do everything you can to set your pet – and yourself – up for success.
- Being responsible means spaying and neutering your pets. Kill shelters euthanize perfectly healthy puppies and kittens every day – don’t fool yourself into thinking those babies you just dumped are automatically going to be adopted. It doesn’t always happen that way.
- If you think you can no longer care for the pet, do the right thing for the animal. Make the effort to find a good home for the pet. Don’t push the responsibility off onto someone else.
- Ask for help. Shelters and other animal welfare agencies know of resources that are available to you and might enable you to keep your pet. Take pet food banks, for example. If you feel you can’t keep your pet because you don’t have the money to feed it, a pet food bank may be able to assist you.
Here’s the bottom line: your pet is never going to be better off dumped at an animal shelter than it is in your home or in the new home you helped find for him. Period. End of story.
Don’t dump your pets at a shelter without knowing the facts. And if you know all the facts and still think the shelter is the best place for your pet, well, here’s hoping a more loving, responsible owner comes along and takes him home.