Repeat after me: Pets are a lifetime commitment.
I don’t know why people don’t get this. When you get a divorce, you keep your kids, so why would you not keep your pets? When you move to a new home, you don’t re-home your kids. When you get a job, you don’t dump your human kids at the shelter.
I know sometimes circumstances change, and emergencies happen. I’m not talking about those occasions when circumstances drive someone to a painful but necessary decision. I’m talking about people who either took on commitments they were unprepared to handle or who simply didn’t choose to honor those commitments. I’m talking about people who treat animals as expendable, without a thought to their needs and feelings.
Every day around the country, animals are brought to shelters and surrendered by their owners. Stupid pseudo-reasons commonly include:
- “She doesn’t like my new boyfriend.”
- “My apartment manager found out I had a pet they didn’t know about.”
- “I’m getting a divorce.”
- “I changed jobs and don’t have time for the dog.”
- “She’s old and I don’t want to watch her die.”
- “He doesn’t match my new couch.”
- “My realtor says the house will sell faster if I don’t have pets.”
And a personal not-so-favorite:
- “We’re having a baby, so we can’t have pets anymore.”
Every time I see one of these “reasons”, I want to scream. Seriously, what is WRONG with humans? How do you take an animal that you have loved, fed, bathed, groomed, and taken care of for years and dump them in a place where the odds of a lonely and frightening death are way too high?
Even worse is when people who purport to be animal welfare workers do the same thing. One poor foster dog was dumped at the shelter by his “family” and then sent to what we thought would be a permanent foster home. A few weeks later, the foster returned the dog in worse condition, saying that he had acquired a contagious skin disease. The disease is easily treatable. The foster’s dogs had all been previously exposed to this dog, which meant that dumping him at the shelter was not going to protect the other dogs from contracting the disease. And the real kicker is the dog did NOT have the skin disease when he left the shelter the first time.
The dog’s foster parent knew that leaving him at the shelter in that condition was almost certainly a death sentence. Didn’t care. Knew that the shelter vets could provide any necessary meds. Didn’t matter.
All that mattered was dumping a dog who once again found himself abandoned in the shelter by humans he trusted.
Let’s try this again. Repeat after me: Pets are a lifetime commitment.
I will never understand how anyone can abandon a family pet. And yet every day, dumped dogs, found dogs, dogs turned in by owners – they all wind up in the shelter. In our local shelter, which is run by hardworking staff who try their very best to save every animal they can, the employees have the heartbreaking task of euthanizing roughly 35 percent of the unwanted animals left to their custody.
I have seen several cases lately of animal welfare people not meeting their responsibility for foster or personal pets. It is especially upsetting to see the people who spend their lives publicly fighting against treating animals as expendable privately doing the very thing for which they criticize others.
Bottom line: If you adopt pets, you take them on for life. You commit to care for them, feed them, love them, and take care of their veterinary needs.
If you foster, that is necessarily a bit more flexible, but you make sure that you only take on those commitments you can meet, or that you set clearly defined parameters so that the parent organization knows for how long or under what circumstances you are willing to keep the animal.
You never, ever do anything that places the animal in greater jeopardy. You never, ever neglect veterinary needs. You’re not doing an animal any favors by placing him in a home that cannot afford to care for him or does not have time to meet his needs.
Pets are a commitment. Until we all choose to honor that commitment as unbreakable, the shelters will continue to fill up with the innocent victims of irresponsible humans.
And that is NOT okay.