Linked ahead is the horrific news story (with pictures) of the news story about a guy in New Charleston arrested on animal cruelty charges. He is charged with duct taping a dog’s muzzle closed. I almost can’t look at the picture. It seems like lately I’ve been more hyper aware of abandoned, abused and mistreated pets. From the cat with a note taped to her carrier and medications in a sealed bag on top, to a dog who was clearly someone’s pet running stray next door – this Spring has brought a rash of people who are throwing up their hands and declaring that, “Responsibility Bites! – let’s just get rid of it.” Or, that they didn’t like how the dog barked/licked/chewed on stuff – and decided to tape his muzzle shut. Granted, I don’t know the motivation behind the above horror, but I can only imagine the dumb excuse someone would have for making that decision.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love helping people understand their pets better. While I don’t always interject my expertise, I’m happy to give it when asked. I tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. “What? Your dog has Stage IV Dental Disease? I can assume that you didn’t know anything about dental care for your pet. Now, be a good owner and get your dog’s teeth cleaned and rectify the situation.” It is really difficult for me to empathize with people who just drop their pets off when they get inconvenient or don’t understand that a puppy chews and tears stuff up because they are teething – thus deciding to get rid of them. /rant
Since I’m such a fan of lists, here is another one to detail some basic thoughts that you should ask yourself before getting any pet.
1. Am I broke? I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not people who don’t have any money to care for their pets should have a pet. However, if you know that you don’t have money to pay your bills or you are living paycheck to paycheck and you get a pet – that’s a pretty selfish move. Love isn’t enough to care for them and believe it or not – you might not be doing them any favors. I hate that it’s true, but you do need money to fulfill a step above their basic requirements.
2. Do I have time? I don’t care what kind of pet that you get, if you barely have enough time to eat breakfast in the morning and you aren’t getting home at night until midnight – you don’t need a pet. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not self-sufficient. Really – what’s the point? Pets are an investment. A hobby that deserves your time.
3. Am I about to undergo a large life-changing transition? You can’t plan for everything. I think most of us do what we can when we have pets and something happens in our lives to throw us a curve ball. However, if you don’t have a pet and you know that in the next year you are about to: get married, have a kid, change jobs, move to another house/apartment, etc. – you should probably just wait until after this life event to bring a pet into the mix. See my above statements about time. Pets should be an investment of your time and if you are needing to focus on something else entirely, you won’t be able to adequately introduce them into your home.
On PetFinder’s Top 10 Relinquishment List, they state a few of the reasons why pets are abandoned (I don’t want to use the word Relinquishment because it sounds too nice). Here are the top 3 for cats and dogs:
Cats – Too many pets, moving and allergies
Dogs – Moving, cost and landlord not allowing
The one’s I agree with more are house soiling (cats), no time (dogs), and illness (dogs). There is nothing on these lists that make me think abandoning that pet is the only option. If you look at some of these reasons, you can fit some of my reasons above into their solution.
Too many pets – If you are adequately evaluating your finances and your time with each pet acquisition, this should never come into play. I have two boxers. Would I love ten boxers? Um, yes. Can I care for ten boxers? Hell no.
Moving – I think that largely this one is a cop out. However, I might be considered “overly attached” or something. When I first got Murcie and then added Enzo, I made a pact with them. I knew that I wouldn’t be living in the house I was in longer than a handful of years. I didn’t get them for a temporary form of companionship. If I wasn’t willing to make some sort of sacrifice when I got them in preparation for moving into a new place in the future, I would have waited.
Allergies – There’s a lot of opinion about this one in the animal community. I don’t think that I’m quite in the ring of those who like to say, “I’d just get rid of my husband – haha.”. Due to the nature of allergies, you can’t always pick what you are allergic to. Do I think that you should take the time and money to try what you can (allergy testing
for confirmation, cleaning regularly to help combat the allergens, etc) before getting rid of the pet? Absolutely. If for some reason nothing helps and the individual is literally miserable, put a little effort into it and actually find that pet a home. There is no excuse for dropping them off somewhere and leaving them because you don’t want to take responsibility for the discomfort it takes in finding a pet a new and loving home.
Cost – This one is self-explanatory. What? You didn’t realize that leaving your dog outside for hours on end means that it gets bored and digs out of your yard, thus resulting in injuries that require a veterinary bill? Are you surprised when your cat scratches up your furniture because you leave him for hours on end and he’s bored out of his little kind mind? I don’t feel sorry for you. Pets can be destructive when you don’t put enough effort into the relationship. Chewed door frames, scratched and destroyed floors, or shredded carpet are not reasons to get rid of a pet that you aren’t taking care of. These are considerations that should be taken into account before you bring the pet home.
Medical Issues – I don’t really know what to say here either. This one falls under cost and time. Cost because of the obvious. You can’t plan for everything, but you should have some sort of cushion to fall back on when something unexpected happens. For time – you should be invested in your pet’s health. If your cat stays outside most of the time and you only really see her in once or twice a week, you might not notice that she got into a fight with another cat and has a giant abscess growing. My thoughts on having any pet predominantly outdoors is another discussion. The point is, that you should be actively involved with your pet and follow routine veterinary recommendations to ensure they stay as healthy as possible.
If this article sounds bitter, that’s only an accurate description. Working in the animal field, it’s hard enough to watch when a pet develops an illness that they don’t recover from. It’s even harder to see pets that aren’t taken care of properly or who are abandoned or abused – all because their owners didn’t think.