No one likes to think about abandoned pets. The start of a new year causes most people to set new goals, but it also brings new problems for those who’ve overspent–sometimes to serious excess. One of those problems may be the loss of their home. A recent article indicates that many people in this position abandon pets to whatever fate befalls them. This is not the answer, but people in that position are often desperate and feel they don’t have any options.
These problems are common knowledge to animal control officers, police officers, and rescue workers, who routinely get called by neighbors when these situations occur. All animal lovers can help these animals by being aware of what’s happening with friends and neighbors. Most of us recognize a change in routine. If you can’t do anything else, at least watch carefully for signs that pets have been alone for an extended time without care. Their lives depend on someone noticing and caring enough to take action.
I ended up in a similar situation the first year I lived in Austin. My neighbor hadn’t abandoned his dog, but his pet sitting arrangements for the family’s holiday vacation went seriously awry. This is another reason for all of us to be vigilant about the care of all animals. Our neighbor had two people set up to care for his very, very large dog. First, the weather didn’t cooperate and one of them couldn’t make it, but she thought the other one was coming every day too–she didn’t worry about it or call anyone. The other person thought the first was coming every day, and he didn’t try to make it when it wasn’t convenient. Guess what happened? You’ve got it. The dog was left for days without anyone to check on him or provide food and water.
This happens more often than most people realize when you ask relatives and friends to take on this responsibility during holiday and vacation seasons. Family are most often enlisted to save money by not hiring a professional pet sitter, but people are much more responsible about paid jobs. Sometimes relatives don’t want to say no, even when they should. This young, large breed dog would not have survived long without food. He didn’t have an ounce of fat on his body. Worse yet, his family thought he was cared for in their absence.
This situation turned out OK because I noticed and have no fear of huge dogs. I fed the dog, and left the owner a note. Every year, I read about other situations that don’t turn out well. Cats are often victims. If they are shut inside, no one hears them. They can’t bark loud enough to draw attention. People often go off and leave for a weekend and don’t call a sitter either. It takes more observation to recognize a problem.
Getting back to the animals that are abandoned–intentionally or unintentionally–for other reasons, such as family problems, financial problems, and sometimes–sadly–ignorance and neglect. People in these situations often don’t seek help. They may not even know help is available. Perhaps, they are ashamed of their circumstances, or they’re in legal trouble. As a result, they won’t go to the authorities for help. They may not come to me or you either, but we can be alert to signs help is needed.
By the time a situation is desperate enough for a family to lose their home, they may be too stressed to ask anyone for help. We can all help protect innocent creatures by being good neighbors and remaining alert to what’s going on around us, wherever we live. Keep a list of your local shelters handy and make copies you can hand out, especially no kill shelters and breed rescue groups. If you think there is a problem, such as someone asking if you’ve thought about getting another dog, take time to be a friend and ask a few questions. Maybe you can provide a lead to a shelter or rescue group.
The theory that it takes a village to raise children also applies to protecting and saving our animals, and we can all make a little bit of difference with very little effort. Spring break and the end of college semesters, especially graduations, are also a time to be vigilant. Unfortunately, many pets become homeless when students are ready to go home or start a new life.