A month ago, a senior, blind Chocolate Lab with diabetes was picked up as a stray and brought to a shelter. He was a lovely dog, with a beautiful spirit and a tremendous love for people. He had obviously been well socialized and shelter staff and volunteers felt certain his guardians would be by to pick him up by the end of the weekend. Molasses, as he has since been named, is still at the shelter.
In early September 2011, an article, “You can’t keep your pet? Really” was posted on Kijiji, a free on-line advertising website. In this article (which unfortunately is no longer available), a shelter director writes a powerful and uncensored script of what happens to many of the animals that are carelessly disposed of in shelters across the country. She explains the 72 hour window of opportunity they have to get adopted before many of them are killed. She describes, in detail, the horrors of euthanasia, a process nothing like its benign sounding name. Despite the fact that euthanasia is considered the humane way to kill animals, death is not always instant and animals often suffer before they are finally put to rest. And in some rare cases, the animal does not actually die, only to find itself wake up the next day in the shelter’s dumpster.
The article was a plea to pet guardians to step up and take responsibility for the animals they chose to bring into their families. Animal shelters and community-based rescue groups across the country will attest to the ridiculous, careless and very selfish reasons guardians have for disposing their animals. Ranging from the completely absurd, such as the woman in Britain who demanded her dog be returned because he didn’t match her drapes, to the more common excuses, such as “we are moving”, “we just don’t have the time”, “she is much bigger than we thought”, “he is sick and I can’t afford to pay for his veterinary care”. While all of these reasons cause animal lovers and advocates to shake their head in anger and despair, perhaps one of the most tragic and arguably one of the most common reasons is because their pet is too old. Really?
A general search on Petfinder on September 9, 2011 for any animal available for adoption in British Columbia indicated that there were over 15,000 senior animals waiting for a home. More specifically, 15,125 families/individuals made a decision that they no longer wanted to care for their aging family member and disposed of them. While we cannot begin to know what life was like for many of these animals before they were dumped, we can safely assume that they lived with people who cared for them reasonably well enough to live to a senior age. How do they then, after 8, 9, 10 years just dropped them off at a shelter with strangers to live in a cold and isolated kennel? How can they then, just say…”ciao”?
Perhaps this speaks to a larger social problem of a consumer society that disposes of everything at alarming rates. Where each year we look to upgrade our cell phones, computers and iPods. When our year old 54” inch HD TV seems inadequate to this year’s 3D model. Where we look to our neighbour with envy when he trades his four year old car for the newer model. Perhaps it speaks to the fact that as a society we value youth and fear aging and spend thousands of dollars to attempt to stay looking young.
But for those of us who love animals; for those of us who recognize their inherent value of living creatures and for those of us who have accepted the human responsibility to ensure they are loved and cared for throughout their entire lives, there is absolutely no excuse. There is absolutely no acceptable reason that an aging animal is disposed of and exchanged for a newer “version”