A little rant…
I have heard every reason in the book for people “getting rid of” their pets. First of all, I hate that term. You get rid of old clothes in your closet, or crabgrass in your lawn, or that old futon you’ve been hanging onto since your college days. You don’t “get rid of” a member of your family. Let’s call it what it really is: abandonment.
My shelter and rescue work have exposed me to many reasons for abandonment. The most absurd ones I ever saw were “dog kept getting pregnant” and “cat wouldn’t stop eating houseplants.”
Excuse me for a moment while I bang my head on my desk.
Let’s forget for a moment that people are really dumb enough to not understand what neutering is, or heartless enough to choose a houseplant over a cat, and address the more common reasons for abandonment:
With VERY few exceptions (military moving overseas being the only valid one I can come up with – and even then I think there are options if you really make it a priority), I think this excuse is complete crap. I find it hard to believe that you could not find one apartment or house within a 30 mile radius that would accept pets.
If I were renting, that would be a non-negotiable for me. For some people the non-negotiables are parking, washer/dryer in unit, view, etc. If you are a pet owner, “pet friendly” needs to be at the top of your list. And if you can’t find an apartment complex that accepts pets, Craigslist is full of rentals by owner who are likely to be a lot more flexible. I know some exceptional pet owners who went so far as to make resumes for their pets that they handed in with their rental application, and were able to get an exception the “no pets” rule. Bottom line: if you make it a priority, you can make it work.
2. New baby
There is absolutely no reason babies and pets can’t coexist. In fact, studies have shown that kids who grow up around pets have fewer health issues and allergies. And what better way to teach your children responsibility and compassion than by helping to take care of a living being?
Now, despite the fact that I proudly fly my”crazy dog lady” flag, I’m not delusional enough to assert that keeping an animal should come at the risk of the child’s safety. I absolutely believe that the child should come first. However, I also think people are too quick to kick the pets out the first time their dog growls at the kid or the cat scratches him. Rather than kicking the animal to the curb, people need to take a step back and look at what may have triggered the issue, and determine if it’s something that was easily preventable. Was the child getting in the dog’s way while he was eating? Did the kid pull the cat’s tail? Did you not see what happened? Whoops, there’s your first problem (now take that rolled up newspaper you were intending for the dog and smack yourself over the head a couple times with it). Young kids should always be supervised around pets. Period. Baby gates can do wonders. Keep the kitchen gated off while the dog is eating, or keep a bedroom gated off that the cat can jump over and escape to when she’s had enough baby time.
If you do have an issue, there are a myriad of Web sites that can help you keep the peace in your home. I happen to know of a great blog written by a mother of a toddler and two large dogs – she offers some great advice, and if nothing else, sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re not alone. And don’t discount getting professional help. I’m not talking about a trainer from your local PetSmart. I’m talking about a certified behaviorist. Visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Web site to find a qualified behaviorist in your area.
3. Other “issues”
No one ever said pet ownership was easy. Just like raising a child, you’re bound to come across some bumps in the road. Also, like raising a child, a lot of those bumps are probably due to your own shortcomings as a “parent.” Regardless of whose fault it is, you owe it to your pet to exhaust every option.
The first step is usually a trip to the vet to rule out a medical issue. Many cats are given up for peeing outside the litterbox, when vet would have diagnosed an easily-curable UTI. Sudden aggressiveness in dogs is often a sign that the animal is in pain.
If you rule out a medical issue, the next step is to bring in a behaviorist. Again, I’m not talking about a trainer from your local PetSmart. There’s a big difference between a trainer and a certified behaviorist. Visit www.apdt.com to find a behaviorist in your area.
Whether the issue is medical or behavioral (or undetermined), don’t hesitate to get second and third opinions, if needed.
The bottom line…
Simply stated, when it comes to “issues” with your pet, either: a) it can be fixed, or b) it can’t.
If it can be fixed, it’s your responsibility to fix it. Don’t dump your problem on someone else, hoping they’ll fix it. And if it can’t be fixed, then you need to take a good long look at your situation and decide if you can live with it or not. If you can’t, then maybe the most humane thing to do is to take your pet to the vet and have it put down peacefully in the arms of the family it loves.
There is no shortage of homeless animals in this country who don’t have any “issues.” No one ever walks into the shelter asking if they have any biting dogs or cats who don’t use the litterbox. And please don’t dupe someone by listing it on Craigslist while conveniently omitting the issue, because they’re just likely to turn around and “get rid of it” themselves.
With 5-7 MILLION pets being euthanized in the U.S. every year, there are plenty of animals who will never find a home. Don’t let your pet take their place when it already has one.