I believe the only thing that will truly end the misery of homeless pets is a change in paradigm brought about by Education. We have to educate the public on the accountability that comes with pet ownership, how to be a responsible pet owner, and how animals should be perceived and treated. Shelters and rescues are great, I shudder to think of where we'd be without them, but they treat the symptoms, they are not the solution. The problem is that far too many pets end up in shelters or rescues in the first place. There are a million reasons for this; some completely valid, most are utterly callous. The analogy I like to use when I talk about shelters and rescues being a band aid is this story:
A man was walking along a river one day when suddenly he spotted a baby floating down the river! He jumped in to save the child from drowning.
Just as he pulled the child to safety he spotted another baby floating down the river! He jumped in to save that one too, but no sooner had he gotten the child to safety he saw two more babies floating down the river. Suddenly, the river was full of babies who needed to be rescued!
A second man saw what was happening and jumped into the river to help. They were both working tirelessly to save the babies when the second man suddenly got up and left. Where are you going?!? shouted the first man, you have to help me save these babies!!!
I'm going up the river to find out WHO is dumping all these babies into the river! he replied.
I like this analogy because it depicts what it's like for animal shelters and rescues. The homeless pets just keep coming, it never ends. We need to stop the proverbial bleeding and find out WHO is dumping all these pets and WHY. Most importantly, we need to figure out HOW to stop it!
Adoptions, donations, fostering, spay/neuter, microchipping are all critical life saving efforts, but they won't solve the root cause of the problem of too many animals ending up in shelters or rescue. People think that more and more adoptions and spay/neuter will solve the problem but it won't. We have to stop the continual flow of pets into shelters and rescue!
Trying to convince more people to adopt more pets won't solve the issue, because the flow of pets into shelters never stops. The flow of pets into shelters will only stop when pet owners make it stop.
Many people think more adoption is the solution, they don't understand why every homeless pet doesn't find a home and they blame the shelters for this. They'll say things like "There are 12 million people who want to acquire a dog and there are 9 million dogs available for adoption" so there's no reason why every single adoptable dog shouldn't find a home! "The numbers don't lie" they'll say. I know it sounds like a no brainer but it's not. The numbers, at a macro level, may seem to tell the full story but they don't. Without drilldown on the numbers, like any financial analysis, it is flawed. Substitute the word "dog" with car, home, spouse, or any other life decision that is highly emotional, and you can begin to see why. Just for fun, let's try this exercise:
"There are 9 million
Well it's a no-brainer, with 12 million single guys out there right? So why aren't all 9 million women busy picking out a china pattern?? Oh I'm sorry, did I neglect to mention that:
* Of the 9 million women searching for a spouse, 1.2 million are gay and want a female spouse.
* Of the 12 million single men who want a spouse, 2 million of them are also gay and want a male spouse.
* Of the 12 million single men who want to marry, 150,000 of them are widowed men over the age of 80 and all 9 million women are under the age of 65. Ok, some of the 80 year old men are kinda hot and have a lot of money, so that closes the gap a little, LOL!
* Of the 12 million single men who want to marry, 500,000 of them have done jail time for significant crimes. Only 10,000 of the 9 million woman say they would marry an ex-con.
* Of the 9 million women searching for a spouse, 7 million of them insist on marrying someone with a college education. Only 9 million of the 12 million single men have a college degree.
This list could go on for days but do you see where I'm going with this analysis? This example is outrageous and exaggerated but a lot of ticking off of criteria goes through peoples' heads when they "want to acquire a pet". People usually have very definite ideas about what kind of pet fits their desire and lifestyle. It isn't fair to blame them for that, it is everyone's right to have the pet of their dreams. If you desperately want a Siberian Husky puppy, you have every right to have one. No one should coerce or guilt you into adopting a 3 year old Terrier mix if you really only want a Husky puppy.
We all want to do our part and be responsible, but that shouldn't mean always putting our own desires aside in favor of cleaning up the messes of irresponsible owners who continually dump, thoughtlessly surrender, are careless with, or neglect the pets they made a commitment to. If you desire a French Bulldog puppy, you have every right to have one. If you desire a 4 year old Basset Hound, why shouldn't you have one? As long as you responsibly acquire the pet of your dreams, you have every right to do so! Just as you have every right to choose the spouse or the home you desire.
We still live in a world where pets are thought of as "less than" by a large segment of society. Sadly, spending money, time and energy to properly care for our pets is not everyone's priority. Too many people still think of pets as something to be owned, used, and discarded at will, rather than cherished. This attitude contributes to overcrowded shelters and high euthanasia rates.
I believe the only real solution is to drastically reduce the number of pets that end up in shelters and rescues in the first place by changing the paradigm. I believe this will only be accomplished through education! As bloggers, we are privileged to have the ability to help educate others. If you think this post has merit, please share to help spread the message.
I realize some of you may vehemently disagree with what I've said here, and that's ok. I always want to hear what you think of my posts regardless, so please take a moment to comment and share your thoughts.
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