Did you know that the RSPCA rescues around 99,000 dogs and cats in Australia yearly?
That is a very high figure.
Did you know that the RSPCA kills around 37,000 dogs and cats in Australia yearly?
That is a very sad figure.
Why is it that so many dogs and cats are abandoned and killed every year?
It is a fairly simple reason, really. People would rather buy and home brand new, purebred pets from breeders, rather than someone’s ‘second-hand’ pet.
However, luckily there are some people out there who prefer adopting animals over buying them. 20-year-old Emily Roberts and her family love animals and were devastated when their family dog died three months ago. Emily said that “… we’ve always kind of adopted [pets] from other people. A previous dog we had, we knew a family where he was just too boisterous for them, so we purchased the dog off them. But we’ve never bought from a pet shop”. They quickly realised their family had a hole in it which could only be filled with a rescue pet. Enter stage right, Charlie.
Charlie is a 2-year-old staffy who chose the Roberts family at the RSPCA in Burwood. In terms of the adoption process, Emily said it was very straight forward. They booked in an appointment time, and while they waited for it, they got to walk around and look at the animals the RSPCA had up for adoption. She continued, “we told them our family requirements and what we were looking for. They then showed us into a few rooms which had animals they thought would be suitable for us”. The fourth room they went into was when it happened. Little Charlie came over and bonded instantly to the family of four. Emily said they were very lucky when it came to adopting Charlie because they got to adopt him so young. “His previous owner became terminally ill, so unfortunate for them, but then lucky for us it meant he went back to the shelter and we got him”, Emily says. Emily’s story is just one of many positive stories about adopting animals. She says that Charlie is just “a happy, goofy, funny puppy”.
There are many organisations who rescue animals and offer them up for adoption. More often than not, the animals in shelters are older, sicker, or just been abandoned, and the problem is that people would rather purchase a new, adorable, puppy. According to Victoria Stilwell, journalist for Positively – The Future of Dog Training, there are benefits and challenges to adopting pets. She says that the benefits of adopting a pet are that you save lives, their vetting and training are already done, you can see if the dog is right for you, and the cost of adopting is much less than buying from a breeder. The Humane Society of the United States also provided reasons why adopting a pet is better than buying, which support Stilwell’s list. They say the top reasons to adopt a pet are because you will save a life, you can get a great animal, it costs less compared to buying from a breeder, it helps in the ongoing fight against puppy mills, and because you can change the life of a homeless animal.
Allison Brown has worked at not-for-profit organisations for fifteen years, and a few months ago began working for The Lost Dogs’ Home in North Melbourne. The Lost Dogs’ Home was started 110 years ago and takes in roughly 1,600 animals a month. Allison says that “the vast majority of our animals get adopted, and we give every animal the chance to shine through to make sure they get a family”. She went on to tell the story of one dog who went through behavioural training and even spent time in a foster home. He was in their shelter for 250 days, but a few weeks before Christmas, a family came in and found him. “He was exactly the dog they had been waiting for”, Allison said. The Lost Dogs’ Home care for cats and dogs, but they have 17 council contracts which give them the authority to collect any stray animals in those areas. Allison says this means they often get birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, but they give them to shelters which specialise in caring for and rehoming those types of animals. The adoption process at The Lost Dogs’ Home is very similar to the RSPCA. They have three huge yards to play with the dogs, or a big cattery to play with the cats. Allison says that this time is vital in the adoption process, as it gives the families time to ask any questions about the pet, and make sure they get accurate and detailed answers. It is also important for the workers as they can ensure that the pet is going to its forever home with a loving family. Allison stated, “our ultimate goal is for you and your family to have your pet for life”.
Another key employee at The Lost Dogs’ Home is Jane Currie, the lead animal behaviourist. Jane wrote a press release statement at the end of November for Christmas time, but Allison said that the statement is relevant at any time of the year. The article Don’t Chance it Online – Choose A Rescue Pet for Christmas, examined the benefits of choosing to adopt a pet for someone as a present. Jane said, in the statement, “at Christmas, it’s inevitable that some families will give pets as gifts this Christmas, so why not choose a fully checked rescue pet?”. She goes on that if you buy a pet over the internet, “you have no guarantee of the pet’s pedigree, its social aggression, it’s vaccination history, or its medical needs”. At the Lost Dogs’ Home, Jane says that customers are informed correctly about how the pet will adapt in its new home, its flea and worm treatment, if it has any aggression issues, any allergies, any physical issues, and whether the pet has been microchipped and behavior trained. She went on to quote a statistic which proved that “one Australian online marketplace attracts $14 million in online pet sale annually, selling, swapping or giving away over 31,000 dogs and 24,000 cats annually”. This figure shows that online pet sales from breeders are climbing, which likely means that adoption sales are falling.
When asked about breeders, Allison said “there are a lot of breeders out there who do the right thing, and they walk their dogs, feed them, love them, and most importantly, have the proper council registration”. However, she states that The Lost Dogs’ Home has no interaction with back-yard breeders who operate out of puppy farms. She says these breeders generally have the mothers living in cages where “she doesn’t know human affection, as she gets treated as a breeder, not as a pet”. The Lost Dogs’ Home is not the only company out there fighting against puppy farms and online marketplaces. PETA has been around since 1980, and regularly holds meetings and posts blog articles about animal welfare. One article, Buying vs. Adopting: What’s the Difference? by Emily in February 2017, showed that most animals sold in pet stores are reared in breeding mills. These mills cram the animals into small dirty cages and keep them there until they have bred as much as they can. Emily wrote, “these mills mass-produce animals as if they were products and often ignore their basic needs”.
Danielle Solberg is another employee at PETA, with her role being the Campaigns Assistant for PETA’s Campus Mobilisation Team in the United States. She provides guidance and resources for animal rights activists at colleges throughout the country. Danielle says, “to put is simply, I help students speak up for the animals!” According to Danielle, every year there are millions of dogs and cats put into animal shelters because they are unwanted, and around half of those animals have to be euthanised because there are too many animals and not enough homes. “When people buy animals from breeders and pet stores instead of adopting from animal shelters, they deny a needy animal a chance at a good home”, Danielle stated. In contrast to Allison opinion, Danielle claims, “there is no such thing as a responsible breeder”. She goes on to say that animals in shelters lose their chance to find a home every time a breeder produces more animals, because whenever a breeder successfully sells their animals, they will just be motivated to breed and sell more. “There are only so many homes available for animal companions each year, and for every slot filled by a dog or cat from a breeder, there’s one home fewer available to a dog or cat (or any other species) in a shelter”, Danielle said.
When trying to find a pet to add to your family, it is important to remember the animals living in shelters. They are often abandoned by their old owners, and just want to live with a family who is going to shower them with love and attention. Owning an animal is a long-term commitment, and all the different aspects need to be considered before taking on that responsibility. Adoption shelters want to help the animals find their forever families, whereas breeders just produce the animals for profit. Animals in shelters have their vetting done, training completed, and the employees will be able to inform you of the personality of the animal, to ensure that you take home a life-long companion.
If you want a pet, remember the millions of animals abandoned every year.
If you want a pet, remember the ‘second-hand’ pets who desperately want a home.
If you want a pet, remember that breeders kill shelter animals’ chance to have a life.
NOTE: This is a 1,600-word feature story I wrote for my university unit Feature Writing