As everyone over the age of seven should already know, owning a pet is a big responsibility. They need to eat food everyday, which then needs to be pooped out at the right place and time. They need their nails clipped, their hair trimmed, their toys replaced, and perhaps a brand new Halloween costume or a frosted, bone shaped birthday cake once a year.
But as everyone who has ever owned a pet knows, it’s worth it for the love, amusement and companionship they bring.
It’s worth it for most, that is. Every year, millions of pets are abandoned in the US, for any number of reasons, though miscalculation of the responsibilities entailed are probably chief among them.
Tying a dog to a fence post at a local park and walking away will not only earn you the ire of animal rights activists, it’s illegal. Each state has it’s own laws. In New York, for example, pet abandonment is a misdemeanor which can result in up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine. In Oregon, animal abandonment is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
Melisa Susko of PIGS Animal Sanctuary, says that “Over the years, we’ve had a major problem of people ‘dumping’ their animals (and their responsibility) at our gates.” They love animals at the sanctuary and will keep them until the natural end of their lives. But this also means, “One, two even twenty animals left in boxes or crates in our driveway every day has resulted in an overwhelming financial burden.”
Susko and PIGS have decided to line their fence with signs reminding people that animal abandonment is illegal — not to mention irresponsible.
The ASPCA lists several options to prevent abandonment, the first being to enlist the help of an animal trainer or behavior specialist. The fulfilling and loving relationship you dreamed about when you first bought the pet may still be within reach. If that doesn’t work, or if behavior isn’t the problem, find a friend, family member, or a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who is willing to take in your pet. If the dog or cat is a purebred, find your local breed rescue, or put your pet on the wait list of a nearby no-kill shelter.
If all those options are exhausted, better than abandoning pets is taking them to a local shelter, like the ASPCA. Though keep in mind that if they cannot find a home for the pet within a reasonable period of time, they will euthanize it.
Besides tying pets to a fence post, or leaving them in a box on someone else’s driveway, many people abandon their pets by releasing them into the wild. Not only are most pets ill-equipped for this lifestyle, if they do find a way to survive, they become an invasive species, decimating local wild populations of birds and small mammals.
On the extreme end, abandoned dogs can form feral packs, menacing the very humans and neighborhoods that abandoned them.
It is important to know that this is these are the fates an abandoned pet is likely to meet. It could help a would-be pet abandoner weigh their actions more carefully.