(Bihar Times): Maxie died today. My sister found her at a taxi stand last month, a Pomeranian with a wound on her back. The taxi drivers said she had been thrown out by a passing car and they fed her sometimes. We brought her home. She spoke to no one, never raised her tail from between her legs and was diagnosed with kidney failure brought on by high stress levels.
The problem with having a helpline is that I get to listen to the saddest stories. Everyday I struggle with callers who want to “give away” meaning, “throw out” their pet. What are the most common reasons?
They are shifting to a new home /new city and won’t take the animal along.
They or their parents are now old or sick.
The animal is old or sick and they want a new one
There is a new baby or one expected.
They cannot exercise their pet as they both have jobs.
Someone in the house is ill and the doctor says that the animal can add to the infection.
The pet snaps at the neighbours or a certain member of the family sometimes
The animal is pregnant and they can’t take care of the babies.
The children need to concentrate on their studies.
Their son/daughter is leaving the house and they can’t look after it.
The man has recently retired and cannot afford to feed it anymore.
Its very fussy and wants attention
The house is too small
Every single person falls into the same dreary pattern. After they have finished whining, I ask “ So you want to throw out the animal”. This invites immediate hostility : “That’s no way to talk. I don’t want to throw out the animal, I simply want a good home for it.” When I reply “ A shelter is not a home, your animal will die there”, and ask whether they would throw out their kids for lack of space or parents in their old age, they get defensive. When I suggest that they put out an advertisement asking for a good home or find a friend to adopt the dog , not wanting to take the time and trouble, they get aggressive: “You NGOs are all the same, all you want is government grants and you don’t do anything ( we get no grants , by the way). Finally, when I tell them that since anyway the animal is going to die of a broken heart or an infection in the shelter, they should kill it ( and I use the word kill deliberately instead of the nonsensical “put to sleep’) then either the phone is banged down or the caller goes insane “ I never expected Maneka Gandhi to say this….
The truth is that abandonment is NO option. It is a death sentence. I know that many of them will throw the animal out anyway or leave it tied to the gate of my hospital/shelter at night. Not one of them will make any investment of time or money towards re-homing an animal that was till yesterday a member of their family.
What does this say about us? We get animals, love them, live with them but at the smallest inconvenience, dump them. A woman living in Sainik Farms, South Delhi, seeking to ``dispose of'' her two year old Dalmatian and a German Shepherd, first claimed her husband was asthmatic, then changed that to the family was going abroad. Finally she admitted , she just did not like their ``smell.''
I have a dog called Beauty. From puppyhood, she was fed only scraps from her owner’s table and when she developed rickets, left outside my gate with Rs 200 tucked into her collar. Any disease whose treatment takes time or money is the first reason why dogs get dumped. Although skin disease is easily curable, owners prefer to chuck out than treat their pet because having it around makes them look bad. A family brought in their black Labrador suffering with scabies to my hospital. The doctor treated the animal and advised medicated baths. The family left with the dog only to throw him out of the car a short distance away. Similar castaways can be found wandering around, lost and frightened until they die of hunger and disease.
Some are left with vets who make a fast buck by selling them to slum dwellers who treat dogs like breeding machines.
Some are bought as babies from pet shops because they’re so ‘cute’. After the novelty wears off and the reality sinks in that the animal needs some looking after, it is thrown out .Many people who make the mistake of buying dogs believing they are pedigrees , after realizing they are not, abandon them. In one bizarre case, a man said that he wanted to dump his Lhasa Apso because she’d mated with a street dog and according to him was not purebred any more. My team visited and managed to frighten some sense into him.
Owners find that the biting they ignored in the pup, has become a problem in the adult dog. So they keep him tied up , turning him into a biter or constant barker and finally throw out the ‘nuisance’ There is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners.
Vacations are bad news for animals. They are often left on garbage dumps to feed themselves till the owners get back.
Some people may keep the pet, but have no compunction about throwing out her babies. Too irresponsible to get their pet spayed, they let their animals breed because 'it's natural to have one litter'. When the litter arrives and homes can’t be found, the babies are dumped at shelters or even in rubbish bins.
Adding to the pressure is the intolerance of neighbors. A number of complaints terming the neighbor’s dog ``a nuisance’ because it barks or snaps force pet-owners to simply abandon the animal rather than face daily harassment.
Pop culture has created the Vodafone pug; the St Bernard, Dalmatian and Great Dane and now the Sharpei from the Garnier promo. Breeders and pet shops flog these exotic breeds to the public failing to prepare the new owner for the lifelong care the animal requires. Constitutionally delicate, these dogs are susceptible to diseases, temperature variations and diet. People later realize they can’t afford the maintenance and turn it out.
A domestic dog cannot survive abandonment. He has no idea of how to fend for himself or find food and water. He is scared of the street because he will be attacked by street dogs. Within 24 hours he will be dehydrated. The cold or heat will kill him. He has no idea of how to cross a road and will be run over. He will follow anyone who looks friendly and end up being stoned. Getting nervous, he will bite someone and get beaten to death. The most commonly abandoned dogs are the large breeds, Alsatians (who are prone to hip dysplasia, a painful collapse of their back legs), Dobermans and Rottweilers . These roam around markets looking for food, their size scaring people into hitting them. Some try to climb into cars and are beaten off. It takes them two weeks to die or be killed by humans. Last week, a thin dehydrated Great Dane with a broken leg was found tied to a pole in Gurgaon. I tracked down his vet who said that since the dog’s treatment was taking so long, his owners had left him tied to a lamppost on the street. The vet narrowly escaped decapitation for knowing and not doing anything about this. I have restored the dog to his home with his leg set right ( and the owner’s head set right).
The dogs that are thrown into a shelter actually die of broken hearts: they become depressed, stop eating and pine away. Old animals who have spent their whole life with a loved human companion find themselves confined to a cage, lonely and confused, with only a few minutes attention from busy shelter workers.
I have three lamppost dogs : a blind and deaf Great Dane , a blind Labrador and a mixed breed who was abandoned because he howls instead of barking.
For those that do this to their family, you are actually cutting your luck and health by half. Viciousness gets very stern retribution from the Universe. Think about it.
To join the animal welfare movement contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I read this article with tears in my eyes that people treat these beautiful dogs this way. Here in Australia we too have this problem, not to the degree that your country does but people still ‘dispose’ of their animals this way without a second thought or any remorse. It breaks my heart when I see these beautiful creatures in our shelters, sad, lonely and frightened. I can’t imagine what they go through, and I imagine the same is for the animals in your country. I wish it was different, I wish we could change peoples attitudes and practices and I wish we could make them see how horrible it is what they are doing.
God bless the wonderful shelter workers and vets and rescuers that save these poor dogs from certain death. You are ‘dog angels’.
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