Shelter Pet Are Not Damaged Goods

Are Shelter Pets “Damaged Goods”?


Posted by Pet Health Care Gazette: 05 May 2013 11:19 PM PDT

PetFinder recently published this post with some rather disturbing statistics about pet ownership and adoption. Among the most disturbing are these statistics:

  • 86% of all adults surveyed consider themselves advocates of adoption, according to an article by Business Wire, but sadly only about 60% would first look to adopt rather than purchase a pet from a breeder.
  • 46% of young adults 18 to 24 years old said they would be more likely to purchase a pet from a breeder than adopt one from a shelter or rescue group.

People sometimes have a tendency to look at shelter pets as “damaged goods”. I think this is particularly true of adolescent and/or mature pets. It’s easy to assume that the previous owner abandoned the pet because the dog or cat is “bad” in some way. This is often far from the truth though. There are many reasons people give up their pets and many of them have more to do with the owner than with the pet.

In today’s economy, many people are having difficulty affording their homes. Foreclosure and/or eviction is a common cause of abandonment for pets, especially in communities that have been the hardest hit by the recession. These are pets that are perfectly healthy and well-behaved. Their misfortune is that their owners are unable to continue to care for them.

The graphic at the top of this page is touching. “My pets are my everything.” For me as well as many other pet owners, it’s absolutely true. Unfortunately, it’s just not true for everyone. Some people simply don’t see pets as anything other than a disposable commodity. Sad but true. And a big reason that many pets find themselves in shelters.

Impulse buys are a big problem. An impulse decision to adopt or purchase a pet often ends badly, with the pet being abandoned in a shelter. That 8 week old puppy that weighs 20 pounds now may be so adorable that he is irresistible. But what happens when he grows into an 80 pound dog who is eating the owner out of house and home? He ends up abandoned at a shelter purely because of poor planning on his owner’s part and through absolutely no fault of his own.

There’s also the kitten or puppy that the kids in the family begged and pleaded with their parents for, promising that they would always take care of the pet. What happens when the kids lose interest and no longer want to take Fido for a walk or clean Fluffy’s litter box? The pet ends up at the local shelter, again through no fault of its own.

These are only a few scenarios. I’ve seen a lot of abandoned pets over the course of my veterinary career. I’ve also seen some pretty sorry excuses for abandoning pets. Like the couple who got rid of their two cats because they purchased new furniture and didn’t want the cats to scratch the new couch.

There are also cases where pet owners are unable to continue caring for their pets because of physical ailments or death. This is an extreme case but one that is particularly sad and pathetic. It involved a chocolate lab whose owner, an elderly gentleman with health issues, appointed a family member beneficiary and executor of his will. In exchange, the family member promised that he would care for the dog after the owner’s passing. Unfortunately, the family member was less than honest. He turned the dog in to the local shelter after the owner’s demise instead of keeping and caring for the dog as he had promised. He apparently didn’t have any moral issues prohibiting him from inheriting the money and property that the dog’s owner left behind though. Pretty shabby if you ask me!

Are any of these pets “damaged goods”? I guess it depends on how you define “damaged”. Most of them are probably heart-broken about being separated from the people they loved and trusted to take care of them. In that way, yes. They are damaged. But the majority of them are more than willing to become part of another family and will make great pets for the person or people who are willing to offer the opportunity.

My pets are not, strictly speaking, shelter pets simply because none of them actually made it to the shelter. All of them were either abandoned at the hospital where I work or were given up to the hospital’s care because of illness or injury. One of my cats, Merlin, was actually left in a carrier in the parking lot. Someone simply drove into the lot, shoved the carrier (with Merlin inside) out of the car, and then left. Another, Dillon, was left in a cardboard box on the doorstep along with a couple of cans of food while the hospital was closed. Unfortunately, the box was not secured and, by the time we found the box, it was empty except for the cans of food. We later found Dillon in back of the building, hungry and scared. He’s been with me ever since. Each of my cats has their own story and each is a unique individual with an individual personality. But they all share one thing in common…they are all great pets. I’ve never once regretted adopting any one of them.

So the next time you’re thinking about a pet, consider adopting a shelter pet. Do you have your heart set on a purebred cat or dog? There is a rescue group for almost any breed you care to name. These pets, whether mixed breeds or purebreds, are not damaged goods. They’re perfectly wonderful animals looking for the right home. It could be your home they need.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette