There are a few different views on animals kept by humans. Some consider them as "things" to have ownership over. Some consider them to be "pets", to be cared for but not considered as important as the humans in the home. Then you have others, like myself, who consider them to be part of the family. As a member of the family, these animals are considered in lifestyle choices the same as one would consider a baby or toddler, or young child.
When we adopt (because it is my hope that we stop "buying" animals), we are committing to love and care for these animals until the day they pass away. They are not toys or pieces of furniture to dispose of when outgrown or old. This commitment comes with expenses: food, toys, equipment (leashes, bowls, etc), and medical costs. It is our obligation to provide shelter, exercise, food, fresh water, medical care, and love. This obligation does not end when we encounter a crisis, have a human baby, or move. We would not dispose of a human child for any of those reasons, right? We would do whatever was necessary to continue caring for the human child, and it is the same with our animal friends. That is what we signed up for when we adopted a furbaby, no matter their age.
As an animal communicator and intuitive, I hear a lot from animals who are displaced, returned, and given up to a shelter. They are confused, sad, and very scared. Elderly animals who are given up after a lifetime of being with a family are broken. They shut down emotionally and spiritually. They are that hurt and confused. I have to limit my time reading blogs from rescue groups, or posts on social media regarding animals searching for a new home because they were released or brought to a shelter after years of having a home. Sometimes returns are after a short period, and that too is confusing. A month is not sufficient time to get fully acclimated after being who knows where or shuffled from shelter to shelter.
Animals are never to blame. Bad behavior does not make a bad dog or cat. They have been traumatized before adoption. They have their own baggage, as does the adopter. It takes time, patience, and love to come to a mutually satisfying place of cohabitation. Humans act impulsively. Regarding dogs, they adopt a specific breed because they think it is cool or because they like the look of the breed. This becomes problematic when the dog's personality starts coming through, and breed-specific or not, it is not what the adopters wanted or could handle. For example, Huskys are very cool looking. Someone may adopt one because of their look (close to a wolf, how cool!), and not consider the needs of this particular breed, or the fact that they are very vocal. If you want quiet, don't adopt a husky!
Here are some tips to help reduce returns to shelters or worse, dumping animals in the street:
1- sit down with the entire family to discuss the physical and emotional responsibilities of adopting an animal.
2- review finances and include costs to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your furbaby. include and budget for medical expenses for an animal. this means doing some research on local veterinarians and the costs of potential medical care.
3- research the specific breed you are considering adopting at all stages of their life. This will give you a good benchmark for behavior and physical traits. Keep in mind, however, that each dog/cat has their own unique personality and may not be exactly like the generalization of the breed.
4-make sure your family is fully committed to 15-20 years or more. Parents who get their middle school children an animal for companionship must realize that their children will not be as available as they get older and may even move away to college. The responsibility of caring for the animal will be left to the parents.
5- make a plan for your animals in case of emergency. So many animals are sent to shelters because their humans suddenly passed away and family is unwilling or unable to care for them. Have that difficult conversation with family and friends, and have it whenever you see their situations change. Be sure you have a plan in place.
Holidays show a spike in animal adoptions followed by a spike in returns come January- March. Animals are a gift to humans but should never be given as a gift. Let us all be more responsible and better stewards of all creatures. We are forcing them to live according to human rules, which makes them our responsibility. I know we can do better.
Be kind to all kinds.