How many people nowadays own a pet? Or, the words I prefer to use, have an ‘animal companion.’
Did you know, “57 percent of Canadian Households own pets which equates to 7.5 million households” (Alberta Government, 2014). Now this is great, but the next statistic I’m about to show you is devastating, where approximately, “54,583” animals are euthanized in Canadian shelters each year (U.S National Library of Medicine, 2011). This is “35 percent of the total intake of animals” (U.S National Library of Medicine, 2011).
Unfortunately animals can’t take care of themselves, a dog isn’t able to go out and get a job to buy a dog house, and a cat can’t go to the store to pick up some Whiskas. Luckily, animal shelters exist to provide the necessary care until they are able to find their forever home, some however never will. Even in the United States, “Approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized yearly, 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats” (ASPCA, 2014).
You might be thinking well I don’t live in the United States, but what many people don’t know is that a lot of shelter animals are moved around the world in hopes that they have a better chance of finding a home in another shelter. For example, my dog Maggie was taken in by a shelter in Calgary because she was having no luck in a California shelter. Gizmo, who I fostered in Calgary is all the way from Mexico, where the chances of dogs being adopted are very slim.
Why do we euthanize?
There are various reasons for euthanization of shelter animals, the main being the lack of space to care for them. If more people adopted, and less people surrendered their animals, this wouldn’t happen as much. Another reason is due to the lack of resources. These organizations run off volunteers, and donations, and if either of these are lacking that will lead to more animals being put down. Donations also go towards medicine, as well as food for the animals. Luckily these animals who have been brought to these shelters, or left there do have a chance to get out, and it’s up to us to get them out.
According to the Humane Society of The United States there are many reasons to adopt a shelter animal, I have included a few of them:
“You’ll save a life.”
“You’ll get a great bargain.”
“It’s one way to fight puppy mills.”
“Because all pets are good for your health, but also for your self esteem.”
“You’ll change a homeless animals world.”
I will elaborate on the above benefits, firstly, “you’ll save a life,” as I’ve mentioned before the number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. When you adopt, you save your animal and open up shelter space for another animal who might need it.
Secondly, “you’ll get a great bargain” this is because adopting a pet is a lot cheaper then going to a breeder, when you adopt a pet, the cost of spay/neuter, first vaccinations and sometimes microchipping is usually included in the adoption price, which means you’ve scored a major deal.
Thirdly, it’s “one way to fight puppy mills.” A puppy mill is considered a substandard kennel where unhealthy, overbred dogs are kept in horrendous conditions. My first two dogs I adopted were saved from a puppy mill, and when the shelter received them they were malnourished, had no teeth, had been beaten, and had broken bones. “These organizations stir up public support for breeding restrictions and high license fees by deliberately blurring the lines between responsible breeding operations and real puppy mills. They use emotional rhetoric and pictures of dirty kennels and sickly dogs to imply that most or all breeders will subject their dogs to abusive lives unless they are regulated” (Dog Owners Guide, 2014).
“Pets are good for your self-esteem,” not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial. Caring for a companion animal can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation in all age groups. When you adopt you will also feel proud about helping an animal in need” (Humane Society, 2015).
Lastly, “You’ll change a homeless animals life,” this is self explanatory, this animal will love you and treasure you until the day one of you die. What could be better then that?
One of the misconceptions about shelter animals is that they are not healthy, which is not necessarily true. Yes, there will be the odd animal that is sick, which is normal but animals at shelters are neutered, as well as given vaccinations and regular checkups to ensure they have the best health before being adopted out to a family. As someone who fosters dogs from Mexico, the most common questions I receive are in regard to the animals overall health. What people need to remember is how strict customs are concerning unwanted diseases being brought into their country, so you can imagine how investigated these animals are. Another misconception is that many people think that when you adopt an animal you will be getting a badly behaved, aggressive dog that’s not trainable. Most shelters will have spent time with each animal training them until they are ready to go into foster homes, or adopted. I have now fostered over 4 animals, and have overall adopted four animals, and all 8 of these animals had basic training before I received them.
Animals can be our best friends yet we fail them each time we buy from a breeder, or pet store. We fail them when we abandon them when they’re sick, old, or inconvenient. We fail them by obsessing over breeds rather then individuals, and we’re failing them by believing myths about shelter pets. Please do yourselves a favour, and check out your local shelters, and see how you can help whether it’s adopting, fostering, volunteering, donating, and attending fundraisers.
American Society Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals. (2014). Shelter Intake and Surrender. Pet Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics
Alberta Government. (2014). Consumer corner:Canadian pet market outlook. Retrieved from: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sis14914
Dog Owners Guide. (2014). Just what is a puppy mill? The dilemma. Retrieved from: http://www.canismajor.com/dog/puppymil.html
Humane Society of The United States. (2015). Top ten reasons to adopt a pet. Retrieved from: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/adopt/tips/top_reasons_adopt.html
U.S National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes Of Health. (2011). Survey of euthanasia practices in animal shelters in Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3003577/