Dog and Pet Abandonment — There’s No Excuse!

The dog is man’s best friend, right? So why are so many not treated as such? The reasons, or the more appropriately-labeled excuses, range from inability to house, to a lack of knowledge of what is required when taking on the responsibility, to a lack of understanding the physical and social needs of a particular chosen breed. Be it the hyper-activity of a puppy, or the consequent frustration when responsibility for our pets alters some of our social or activity plans. Now we can add to the list of despair for our pets the recent home foreclosure crisis causing shelters and rescues further stress and strain to cope with the added influx of abandoned and relinquished animals.

Each year, people choose to bring dogs, cats and other animals into their homes that are soon abandoned to the streets or possibly worse on the eve of eviction departure. Many pet owners are making bad decisions and leaving the defenseless pet in the vacated house where if not found could be left to dehydrate and starve. If the pets are more fortunate they are thrust upon the animal shelters. At least there, there is a chance for adoption.

Abandoning pets, for any reason, is not only irresponsible – it is illegal. Feeling financially unable to care for pets or feeling overwhelmed by a sudden move is not an excuse that makes abandonment acceptable. There are many alternatives to leaving pets behind such as contacting the humane society or animal care and control agency; they may be able to provide you with a list of apartment communities that allow pets, so enough time should be made to discover possible options and not wait until the last minute.

Shelters experience a spike in “drop-offs” after the Christmas Holidays from originally chosen pets that later become discards. The greatest spikes occur in March and April, as people decide to relinquish the responsibility they at first assumed. If an animal was adopted as a holiday gift, it is usually around the start of the New Year that the recipient decides he does not wish to manage the responsibilities any longer. The originally chosen now become the forsaken.

All too often, the cuteness factor of a puppy or kitten that was present for the first few months starts to wear off. The originally adored four-legged pet begins to go through the growing process with the natural tendency to chew on things, and the family soon realizes it is lacking in knowledge of the proper training process. At this time, the family’s frustration factor kicks into high gear and rationalizations develop that it is fine to close the chapter on a dependent life of innocence. This mental rationalization process is made even easier when the people involved did not have a vested interest in the original decision. Tragically, many of these innocent animals are euthanized.

The continued neglect of these pets at times creates a situation where the animals develop to be too aggressive or too unhealthy to place with new adoptive families, and rehabilitation becomes an almost impossibility to happen.

Dogs less than two years of age are not always easy to find homes for because they have not been trained nor properly socialized. They are naturally very active, necessitating a more active involvement in the socialization process.

If the dog in need of a new home happens to be one of the stronger breeds that often has a generalized negative reputation, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier (mostly referred to as the Pit Bull or the non-purebred Pit Bull mix), it will be at an extreme disadvantage for adoption. But, the actual fact is that a well-socialized, well-cared-for and well-trained Pit Bull makes a wonderful, devoted companion.

Families should do the due diligence of research before bringing any pet into the home. This assures that the chosen dog is an appropriate match for the family or lifestyle. Families whose members are sedentary should not choose a Border Collie that requires a great deal of exercise and activity. Some small breeds are great for children, others are excitable. Large dogs are excellent family companions but their size warrants adequate training to prevent damage to persons and property.

The personality of a dog is fixed by genetic code from the parents. Training and environment accentuate or detract from traits, but basic personality remains. Families should be aware of the associated costs of guardianship, and of the possibility of any physical difficulties that could arise within the genetics of a particular breed. If a particular chosen breed is not a good fit, there are others that will be and families should be open-minded to different options.

No matter the choice, the essential ingredients for a healthy, rewarding relationship are commitment, love, care, appropriate exercise, training and socialization. Let’s make the choosing of our pets a life-long commitment, as it should be.

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