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Pet Overpopulation and our Disposable Culture


Although dogs are considered to be man’s best friend, almost 10% of all household pets will end up relinquished to a shelter or rescue for rehoming. The reasons a dog is disposed of are diverse.  Some rationales are more legitimate than others, although nearly all explanations indicate the owner was not properly prepared to provide for another living creature.


In the age of instant gratification, dogs are often impulsively purchased because a person feels a dog may be fun to have, or would make a cute accessory. Sometimes, dreams of adorable Facebook or Instragram posts cloud the judgment of someone contemplating acquiring a pet.  For others, the cost and implications of caring for an animal are simply not well considered.


For a majority of pets that are given up to a shelter, the underlying reason is that the animal was not “perfect.” The dog may have dug up the flower bed one too many times, or had an accident on the carpet while the owner was away.  Perhaps the dog barked or howled too much, or simply just had too much energy.  Sadly, many dogs are gotten rid of because they are no longer as cute as they once were as puppies.


A depressing reality is that people forget animals are sentient beings, able to feel pain and loneliness. While replacing one dog for another can fix a problem in the short-term, someone who views dogs as disposable will never take the time to understand that any dog can be perfect, with proper training, love, exercise, and attention.  A clear indication of our society’s views of the “perfect” pet is the sheer number of animals that are euthanized at shelters every year, simply because no one wants to adopt a pet with a physical flaw or special need.  For instance, deaf and blind dogs can live high quality lives; however they are among the hardest to find new homes for.  Even more surprising, numerous studies have shown that an otherwise healthy dog that happens to have black fur, regardless of breed, is more likely to be euthanized for space in a shelter environment.  The inability to accept “flaws” is a sad reflection of our culture.


When adopting or purchasing a dog, an owner should realize that the commitment is life-long, and not temporary. Unlike a smart phone, a dog cannot be replaced whenever a newer or better model is available.  Owning a pet is a life skill, one that requires patience, problem solving, and the ability to care for another, for better or worse.


If you would not get rid of your friends, spouse, or children because of their imperfections, why replace a dog? After all, in many ways, a dog is more loyal and reliable than any other being in your life.  Even if they cannot communicate as perfectly as we would sometimes like, a dog is a lifetime commitment, not a flavor of the week.  Only when every pet owner understands this sentiment, can the annual euthanasia rate of 1.2 million dogs begin to be reduced.



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