Pet Overpopulation and You - Let's Start With You
Should you adopt a kitten or a cat, a puppy or a dog, a mixed breed or a purebreed?
Should you adopt from a high quality breeder, a shelter or a rescue group?
Should you have your pet spayed or neutered?
Wait, I mean YES! Of course, yes.
But before you do any of these noble things, decide whether or not to do this one thing that I believe has the power to reverse pet overpopulation in one pet generation. Without this one decision, the rest of the decisions we make about our pets may help curb pet overpopulation, but they will never solve pet overpopulation.
Decide now. Make the commitment that you will keep the pets you have now and any new pets you bring into your family for their entire lifetimes.
I do not have pictures or stories of neglected and abused pets for you. You neither neglect nor abuse your pets. I do not have statistics about the millions of pets who are euthanized every year for lack of a home. You do not have millions of pets. You have your pets. And they are, of course, not homeless.
I often have simple answers to complex issues. My answer is usually a straightforward one, but often one that can be very difficult to implement in real life. Pet overpopulation is one of those issues. My simple answer to the complex issue of pet overpopulation is…
Keep Your Pets.
Imagine what would happen to puppy mills and unscrupulous pet stores if we took away their market for a large supply of adorable puppies and kittens because everyone still had their old pet with them.
Imagine if rescue groups could focus solely on rescuing, and shelters could focus solely on sheltering.
Imagine if excellent breeders could thrive because they were not being dragged down by the reputation and high volume production of non-excellent breeders.
Imagine if we created a stronger market for all of the wonderful trainers and behaviorists to walk us through a lifetime of pet partnership.
Any absolute and bold statement tends to have exceptions. This one does too, but I do not know what they are. You do. Figure out as a family what it would take to permanently sever the tie between your family and your pet, and, insofar as it depends on you, how you will avoid that.
There are risks in contemplating such a simple, bold statement as keep your pets:
- Jumping right to extremes (What if my dog becomes rabid and kills five people and breaks two of his legs on his killing spree??)
- Deflecting the issue to other people (At least I don’t go in the pet drop off door at Nebraska Humane Society with one cat and come out the other door with another cat every week!)
- Falling back into our history and feeling guilty for decisions we have made in the past (and I think this is the most dangerous)
If you promise not to jump right to extremes or deflect the issue to others, I will briefly address guilt, because guilt is something that can shut down great people with great goals in one fell swoop, and I do not want to inadvertently cause you to feel guiltly over the past, or trip you up in the present or future.
You have probably had pets you did not keep for their entire lifetime. I have. The decision to rehome them was not made lightly, by you or by me. We used every resource at our disposal to handle the situation and rehomed our pets for valid reasons. Sometimes both families and the pet involved end up in better situations after a pet is placed in a new home. If you do look back and wish you had known more, or had more resources, or made different decisions, know that I sometimes do, too.
I will not say do not look back because of course we will look back. We love the pets whose lives have intersected with our own. And we would not grow if we merely careened forward with no reflection on where we have been.
So now, go forward, armed with a new determination and the knowledge that you have potentially (along with pet lovers everywhere) solved pet overpopulation with one strong statement, and everything that will be involved in standing behind it.
Keep your pets.
Though it is a simple sentiment, there is much unglamorous hard work in the day to day care of pets and long-term investment in their well-being, and if you would allow me to, I would like to walk with you.