While there is always a percentage of irresponsible or neglectful people, I believe that most people want the best for their pets. As a culture, we love our pets like family. We spoil them, spends hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on them each year. We bring them into our homes with every intention of keeping them until they die of natural peaceful causes. So, how do so many pets end up in the shelter? And, why do we feel justified in being so hateful towards their owners?
Many of these beloved animals were more work than their owners realized. They bark too much, nip at children, or destroy the furniture. Some of their owners died. Some are homeless, recently divorced, or suddenly out of work. These are not things that people plan when they bring home a cute puppy or rescue that adorable dog. Animal advocates do a good job advocating for rescue organizations and adoptions. They have done wonderful work fighting against puppy mills and dog fighters. There is an ugly side to animal rights though. Many feel that their love of animals gives them the obligation to bully, shame, and judge someone that even considers rehoming a family pet. Divorce your husband or wife if you have differences or don’t love each other anymore. But, you had better keep that dog! If you give up a dog, people will call you a POS, a murderer, and unfit to ever have another animal. They are better than you because they “would never do that”...until life punches them in the gut and they are forced with terrible choices. What is best for the animal? To stay with someone that can’t take care of it properly and can’t spend time with it? Or, help to find it a loving home? None of us can know what life challenges have compelled a dog owner to bring their dog to a shelter. Frankly, it is none of our business either. Can we help the dog? If a family member or friend is faced with this choice, can they count on you to help? Or will you judge them and condemn them? Your condemnation will not convince them to keep their dog. It will just keep them quiet around you.
If you are faced with this heartbreaking decision, there are resources besides the local shelter.
1. If you post on Craigslist or Next Door, please request a rehoming fee. This helps reduce the chance that your poor pet will be used as a bait animal in dog fights.
2. Let family and friends know that you need help. People want to help.
3. Contact rescues. They want to help too.
Please don’t judge each other. It is a terrible decision to give up a pet. People that give up a pet often regret it forever. They do not need any added guilt from bystanders. Their pets need your help. If we are truly animal lovers, let’s help their owners when they reach out.
*****Update about the dog that inspired this post: Odin was adopted by my daughter. He is beloved by her, her husband and her two daughters. He spends most of his time on the couch near his people and he is living a VERY happy life. My daughter was originally just supposed to drive him to a rescue group that we found for him. But, she fell in love with him and couldn't part with him. She had longed for a dog for a long time and he melted her heart.