There are fewer households with pets, and fewer pets in U.S. homes, according to the latest AVMA numbers. Most attribute the decline to the economy. As most who work in pet rescue can attest, the number of pets given up in shelters is increasing as people face unemployment and foreclosure.
An “owner surrender” due to loss of one’s home elicits sympathy: someone facing hard times, presumably through no fault of their own, loses not only their house but their best friend. Rental units that allow animals are difficult to find – every time I see a real estate sign that says “for rent, no pets” I want to pelt it with eggs. (I don’t, because that wouldn’t be vegan.) The lack of available housing for people with pets is a serious issue in cities today. Civic action to compel more property owners to accept pets is very needed, particularly when so many people must downsize.
While this is a real problem, people who abandon their pets for housing reasons don’t get a free pass. (I was delighted to read this news story about a local pet-friendly homeless shelter.)
A decent person would rather live in a tent city, a car or a cardboard box with their pets than take them to a shelter where death is certain. These animals haven’t done anything wrong to justify being abandoned. People who throw their animals away like trash don’t deserve sympathy. There is no justification for indifference to the animals who love them and depend on them.
You cannot convince me that this person exhausted all options. There are dozens of alternatives, only one of which is to move to a place that accepts pets. Cats and small dogs are easy to sneak in and out of a building.
Rather than sentencing a pet to death, they could have placed them with a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor – at least then they could continue to visit their pet. They could have found them a new home with a kind stranger through an ad. They could have contacted a rescue organization or even a sanctuary. They could have put them temporarily in a foster home or even a kennel until they found more suitable housing.
There are times when the care of a pet becomes too expensive for people with shrinking means, and in this specific circumstance, it can be better for the animal to live elsewhere rather than suffer hunger or neglect. However, these are not the financial hardships we’ve heard lately. (Putting two kids through college is not cause to abandon your dog, but it is cause to insist your brats get part-time jobs in the dining commons.) As with housing, a decent person would give up satellite television before they’d give up a dog.
I am not sure why animal lovers seem to think playing the financial hardship or foreclosure card is an acceptable reason to abandon an animal. Is it sad? Yes, it’s sad – for the animal who is left in a cage to die alone, scared, and unwanted, with no idea what they’ve done to warrant it. But it’s not sad for the human who abandons them.
My thanks to Pets of the Homeless for the above photo, and for their important work.