A pet comes with a great deal of responsibility. For most people, a pet is for life, and is part of the family, but for some they have to face a difficult decision due to their circumstances. What happens when a once much-loved cute little kitten or puppy grows up and is not so small and cute any more? Sometimes the arrival of a new baby in the family results in a change in priorities, or extended travelling during the holiday season can mean that a pet becomes too much trouble to look after.
In the blog post, Sonja Svensek, Founder of PIN (Pets in Need), addresses the harsh reality when a pet is unwanted and abandoned. It is a difficult topic, but one that needs to be discussed in light of how many animals end up suffering on the streets. Sonja gives us lots of tips on how to plan, and avoid simply discarding your pet. If you have any questions, please leave a comment after this post, and we will ensure that it gets answered.
Picture the scenario; you have had your pet for years, he/she has become part of your family and you pride yourself on taking good care of your pet. Then suddenly you are faced with an unexpected circumstance where Fido’s future becomes uncertain, as you don’t know whether you can keep him/her anymore.
Why Pets are Abandoned
There are many reasons why people suddenly have to part with their pet. It has always been debated whether there are any legit reasons why your pet has to be given away, since after all, if you adopt a pet, it’s a commitment you make for life, regardless of the personal challenges you might face. At PIN, we come across many different reasons why pet owners say they cant keep their pet anymore. Whether it is because they are getting married and their spouse will not accept pets in the house, or because they have realized they aren’t giving their pet all the care and attention it deserves or perhaps because they are leaving the country and the paperwork included is too costly and time consuming, or maybe because they are going on vacation or realized that they have suddenly formed allergies and keeping a pet is too much of a hassle.
It is important to note that your pet’s future depends on the actions and steps you decide to take. If you adopt a pet with the notion that it’s a responsibility you’ll have for the long-term right from the start, you can always prepare well in advance of any unexpected circumstances that could arise. Just like you would do for any other member of the family. For example, you could make arrangements of who would look after your cat if you go on vacation via a trusted friend, neighbor or by contacting local cat/ dog sitters, or by ensuring your pet is micro-chipped and getting the paperwork finalized before you take him/her with you abroad and so on.
The good news is that there are always ways towards a solution. Sometimes people can be misinformed and believe that you cannot live with a pet if you suffer from allergies, or if a woman is pregnant she shouldn’t be around cats. Animal support groups serve a purpose to help educate people and to offer advice and help when needed. But what if someone gets bored of their pet after it’s grown out of it’s cute size? Or can’t afford to look after him anymore, or are forced to ‘get rid of him/her’ through circumstances out of their control? What will become of the pet then?
Countless animals get left behind when people travel – especially during the summer months, school holidays or when exiting the country. It’s all too common to see that in desperation pet owners either leave their pet at a veterinarian clinic for boarding, with no intention to collect him/her back, or are desperately trying to find someone who can take him/her literally a few days before their departure or as a last resort. Some even abandon the pet on the street believing that as an animal, they would be able to survive on the streets and fend for themselves.
It only takes a short trip to Obhur or the Corniche to see the amount of abandoned cats and dogs left to their own devices. This is not always commonly seen by people, but they are there, wandering the areas searching for their next meal. These abandoned animals are easy targets for abuse, getting run over by a car, attacked by other animals or die from starvation or dehydration. A lot of these animals were someone’s pets once. Domesticated animals don’t know how to fend for themselves on the streets. As animal rescuers we have found countless pets, some which were still wearing a collar, run over by a car.
But these aren’t the only risks we put the unwanted pets in. Some are left at vet clinics which are put up for adoption or sale, and others are sold directly to pet stores. Some are collected only to be sold to animal markets. Next time you see an older dog for sale in a pet shop, there is a chance that he/she had a home before. It’s harder to tell with cats since pet stores still sell ‘grown up’ cats which can be sold as younger ones. Unwanted pets could also be taken in by overly interested people who use them for breeding and business purposes.
Those who are actively involved in rescuing animals first hand, know that there are more unwanted abandoned pets than there are homes offered to take them in. Is this due to a lack of commitment we have towards pets? Or maybe because we don’t know where to turn to for help? Perhaps it’s because it might be ‘easier’ to make it someone else’s responsibility or maybe it’s a combination of all the above? Since official registered shelters do not operate here, (yet!) some people have decided to offer their homes as foster care till other homes become available. But this isn’t a long term solution, nor a sustainable one since it means many pets will inevitably be put down to sleep, or be put at risk of an uncertain situation.
Residents of compounds or villas might leave their cats behind to live ‘freely’ in the area and these animals could have the same fate, not to mention reproducing more litters and increasing the number of cats in the area in the process. There are also cases where owners have no choice but to put the pet to sleep.
We might choose to turn a blind eye, but the more we are open about this and learn the reality of what could happen to the unwanted pets, the more we can make positive changes to ensure that pets don’t get abandoned, and are given a chance to continue living happy healthy lives and that productive steps can take place to find good forever homes.
How to find a new home for your pet
It is heartbreaking to say the least, when a pet owner finds him/herself with no choices but to give their pet up for adoption. It’s not always an easy option, but one that may be their only option. But there are steps to take that can help the pet find a new home and also give pet owners peace of mind. If for whatever reason you know you have to give your pet for adoption, make sure he/she is spayed/neutered first and foremost. Apart from the health benefits this has for the animal, this will ensure they cannot be used for breeding regardless of which situation they are in.
Second, plan ahead as much as possible. Join local animal welfare groups where there are people looking to adopt a pet and where you have a better chance of connecting with animal lovers who would rather adopt, than shop for a pet. Spreading the word amongst neighbors, friends and family that your pet is looking for a home. The more awareness we spread, the more chance it could reach the people who would like to adopt or foster a pet. During my years of helping animals, I’ve learnt that we cannot assume that people know where to get a pet from. Though getting one from a pet shop is known to all, many are not aware that there are many animals through people you might know that are looking to be adopted. If there are ways where you could take your pet with you, veterinarian clinics will help with the paper work required and inform you of the process. It can and has been done many times and should be the first thing to consider doing when knowing that you are leaving the country.
Planning ahead is key. This helps your pet get the best chance of finding a home. If you are not prepared to take your pet with you or cannot afford to look after your pet anymore, a tough question should be asked. What will become of your pet? Some people have resorted to euthanasia because they couldn’t find an alternative. The topic of putting an animal to sleep has never been easily accepted for the many different views people have, but if you cannot be certain of your pet’s future, safety and well-being, then perhaps this should be considered as a humane approach to end a possible life of suffering in uncertain situations.
There are a lot of supportive members from many different animal rescue groups, and these groups help people with tips, information and possible solutions that could guide you to come up with solutions and deciding factors. A lot of animals have been saved through informing the public of animal welfare in general, and the more people we reach through education and guidance, the more lives we will be able to help and save.
Contact the following groups on Facebook for additional information:
-PIN (Pets in Need) for fostering and/or adopting pets, help and information.
-Open Paws Jeddah which focuses primarily on dogs for adoption
-Gus’s Hope which focuses primarily on cats for adoption.