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The Wuzzy Chronicles

Pet Overpopulation and You - Let's Start With You

Your decision may solve pet overpopulation.
Solving Pet Overpopulation
Published on March 7, 2010 : 15 comments

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Should you adopt a kitten or a cat, a puppy or a dog, a mixed breed or a purebreed?

NO!

Should you adopt from a high quality breeder, a shelter or a rescue group?

NO!

Should you have your pet spayed or neutered?

NO!

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.

Finch93Shawn Finch is a veterinarian and Mom. She works at Banfield, The Pet Hospital of Papillion. She writes for her own website (www.rileyandjames.com), Omaha.net and Carefresh. :)

Comments

AnnDbugz says:

March 9, 2010 : 6 years 29 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Thanks Shawn for writing about this topic. When I volunteered with the cats at the Nebraska Humane Society, we would often see cats get adopted, only to come back. I know this helped educate us all on pet over population.

Finch93 says:

March 10, 2010 : 6 years 29 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thanks Ann! Most people are pet keepers, and even of those who are not, most are good caretakers! If we can tip the balance just a bit more towards good people keeping their pets, and equip them to do it, I think it can really make a huge difference! Bless you for taking care of Omaha’s kitties :)

JenOmaha (not verified) says:

March 15, 2010 : 6 years 28 weeks ago

JenOmaha's picture

Thank you for addressing this issue with such a fresh perspective.

Personally, I have never had a pet that I had to give up before their passing, and I doubt I ever will. However, I have known many, many friends and family that have given pets up for adoption or “free to a good home,” for whatever reasons. It breaks my heart for them and for the animal.

Omaha’s humane society and shelters in and around our area know firsthand the heartache and frustration of helplessly watching animals go in and out of homes that often take pet ownership for granted.

I really loved reading this article; thank you for sharing.

Finch93 says:

March 15, 2010 : 6 years 28 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you Jen! That is so encouraging! I would not have had this article to write if everyone had your attitude toward pet ownership.

Stacey Watson (not verified) says:

March 18, 2010 : 6 years 28 weeks ago

Stacey Watson's picture

Thank you for a great article! My place of employment has an electronic bulletin board, and every week there are new postings of people who “no longer have time” or “can’t afford” their pets. Then there are the pets that they didn’t take the time to train, and now they are looking for “someone with more time to commit” to their animals. It makes me CRAZY.

Omaha was in an outrage when people were using the loophole in our safe haven law to drop off kids they couldn’t care for anymore. We need the same level of attention given to all of the pets being abandoned. Thank you!

Finch93 says:

March 18, 2010 : 6 years 28 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you Stacey! I hope more people will consider taking extra steps or adjusting their lives when it is possible to accommodate their pets. Those signs drive me crazy too - I know some of them are a last resort of well meaning people, but I know often people jump to pet relinquishment when there are still unexhausted options!

Mary Haight (not verified) says:

March 20, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Mary Haight's picture

Tweeting about this now—how did I miss this?? I know my readers will love this! Maybe I just lost the tweet, but animal welfare and pet bloggers will be over the moon to have it from a vet—it’s what all of us in sheltering or volunteering talk to adopters, our families and our friends and colleagues about. *Thank you!*

Edie (not verified) says:

March 20, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Edie's picture

It’s funny, I was just contemplating this topic because of a comment that Mary Haight made on my blog about people giving up pets to a shelter in spite of the express wishes in a will that they take care of them. I was wondering what kind of people would do such a thing and then I saw Mary’s tweet, which directed me to your post… So, I guess the answer to my question is Lots of well-meaning people might do such a thing. They — we — just have to get over their guilt about the past and do better in the future. So thanks for a very good, and very timely, post!

Finch93 says:

March 20, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Mary and Edie-You are welcome and thank you for your kind words :) Edie-Mom and I both love your book! Reading it again now!

Finch93 says:

March 21, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Stacey…I just now found your website and I love it :)

Stacey (not verified) says:

March 22, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Stacey's picture

Thanks, Shawn! I’m new to the whole blogging thing, but am having a blast so far….or maybe you mean my Petlane site. either way, I am enjoying them both :)

Stacey (not verified) says:

March 22, 2010 : 6 years 27 weeks ago

Stacey's picture

Thanks, Shawn! I’m new to the whole blogging thing, but am having a blast so far….or maybe you mean my Petlane site. either way, I am enjoying them both :)

Karin TarQwyn (not verified) says:

March 30, 2010 : 6 years 26 weeks ago

Karin TarQwyn's picture

What a great article with a very right-on target perspective. Touche for addressing a simple solution to a huge problem… We need a paradigm shift or at least an addition to adoption protocol that includes assisting pet owners with solutions, (both physical and emotional), that help them keep their animals in their homes as opposed to giving them up when change, problems or crisis arise… Great article…

Finch93 says:

March 30, 2010 : 6 years 26 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you Karin! When Nebraska Humane Society added their extensive behavior department to help owners with pets they already had, I was perplexed, but now it makes perfect sense. They help with pet retention, so there will not be such a turnover. One of their people said to me (half joking I suppose!), “We are trying to put ourselves out of business!”

Finch93 says:

March 30, 2010 : 6 years 26 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Karin-I HAVE heard about your service to lost pets before-awesome! Thank you for all you do! And great website :)