June 18, 2009
Puppies are adorable, but think carefully before adopting.
(AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Dan Pelle)
Nashville Pet Training Examiner, Tracy B. Ann, has an excellent article on “kill” vs. “no kill” animal shelters and what we need to understand about them (see link below). Tracy cautions that we must minimize emotionalism in our attitudes toward shelters by recognizing that the shelters themselves are only a symptom of a larger problem.
In fact, that very emotionalism is a major factor in creating the problem itself. For one thing, there is a tendency to see pets, especially puppies, kittens, and other infant animals, as just such cute little things. Surely we must have one.
Once that maternal or paternal impulse kicks in, so does our need for sometimes selfish gratification. Regardless of whether we are in a position to adopt a pet, we’ve got to have one. It’s just so cute. The kids must have it. We must have it.
Maybe we could teach the kids a lesson in responsibility. Maybe we could teach ourselves. Regardless of how full animal shelters are, becoming a pet owner is a responsibility. Being a responsible pet owner means considering the following:
1) Does my schedule allow me to give This Pet the care it will need? Consider the breed of dog you’re getting. Breeds are very, very different from each other and have very different needs. Think about the pet’s needs ahead of your own. The easiest time to do that is before you get it.
2) Do I have the energy to give This Pet the care it will need? Consider the breed of dog you’re getting. Breeds are very, very different from each other and have very different needs. (Do I sound redundant here? Good.) Think about the pet’s needs ahead of your own. The easiest time to do that is before you get it.
3) Do I know enough about having This Pet to give it the care it will need? Am I motivated to educate myself? I mean by not just relying on outdated training techniques or questionable beliefs you’ve accepted since you were a kid. (“Every pet should get to reproduce just once.” “I don’t want a dog who’s an ‘it.’” “He’s dominant; he needs to be put in his place.”) I mean giving careful consideration to a lifetime of thoughtful, educated, flexible yet consistent pet ownership.
4) Think about the future. How will This Pet fit into your life? Do you expect to travel? Get married? Get divorced? Have kids? Work around the clock? Move to a pet-free apartment complex?
5) Is being alive at any cost more important than quality of life? In other words, if you save this animal’s life but you can’t fulfill its needs, are you doing it a favor? The answer would arouse a great deal of debate. What do you think?
Pets have one major thing in common with kids: everyone shouldn’t have one. And they share another major thing in common with kids: most of us think we should. Or we feel guilty saying no. (“Everyone should have a pet.” “You must be a cold hearted person.” “I can’t turn the kids down.”) The results can be disastrous…for both pets and kids.
None of us is perfect and all of us will fail our pets at times along the way, just as we fail each other—and ourselves. But a healthy dose of “What’s best for this particular dog/cat/rabbit/fish?” will go a long way in preventing abuse, abandonment, unwise breeding, and just plain old unhappiness. All those things that lead to pets in shelters—whether you call them “kill” or “no kill.”
See "'Kill' vs. 'No-Kill' shelters," by Tracy B Ann, Nashville Pet Training Examiner