I see this all the time and it bothers me, that someone wants to place their messed up pet with someone else because they cannot afford it or cannot handle it. Now while this might be heartbreaking to see an animal suffering, shouldn’t we be considering our role in perpetuating that suffering?
The unfortunate reality is that all animals cannot be saved. There are far more unwanted animals than there will ever be adoptive homes. For every animal that you take into your home, there are a dozen more than will never have homes to call their own. While emotionally I may hate the idea, intellectually I have to accept that it is, and will always be true.
Therefore, shouldn’t the animals we save be the ones most deserving? The infirm, the unstable, the ones with serious physical, behavioral or emotional problems probably shouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s list of animals they’d prefer to survive. It’s the strong and well-adjusted animals that really deserve our attention. Oh sure, I hear people saying that’s not fair, but life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that idiots breed millions of unwanted dogs and cats every year, then want someone else to take them off their hands. Fair or not, that’s the reality.
It really bugs me when I see people putting ads up for animals that have severe problems. From the guy who had a horse with an infected eye (“it’ll probably have to be removed but I can’t afford it”) to the tons of people who want to get rid of untamed and probably dangerous birds, I wonder what the impetus is of potential new owners to go after this “damaged merchandise” Unless your heart is a lot bigger than your head, at which point you ought to see a doctor, it makes no sense.
Yet I see it all the time, people who took in birds and 5 years later, they still can’t touch it. Dogs that are vicious and therefore confined to a pen for everyone’s safety. Cats with serious physical problems that will never have a very good quality of life. Why do we rescue these animals? For all the extra time, money and effort these animals cost, several better animals could have been saved. Does that make sense?
Therefore I’ve made it my policy to only save the ones that really deserve saving. The happy, healthy, well-adjusted ones, the ones that don’t have serious behavioral problems, the ones that don’t require constant medication or a pet psychiatrist. In short, the animals that can do well integrating into an existing pet population, that don’t need absurd amounts of supervision and rehabilitation.
I also don’t want animals I have to ship across the country. That always strikes me as unnecessarily cruel, to stick an animal in a cramped cage, possibly having to sedate it, throw it into an airplane for hours and then show up in a crowded airport, picked up by a stranger and taken to a strange place. Can you imagine the stress that causes? It’s very unhealthy. Therefore, I don’t consider rescues farther than driving distance from my house. I just won’t do that to an animal.
Then let’s talk about cost. I’ve done this a bit in the past, but I saw an ad today that illustrates the issue. Some guy wanted to place a severe macaw that had feather plucking problems and he admits it’s been badly abused in the past. He says he wants $400 because it’s “much less than retail”. Of course it is! You’re trying to get rid of a damaged bird! If someone is paying retail prices, they expect to get a well-adjusted, happy, healthy animal. You’re trying to pawn off a third-hand, emotionally-scarred animal that will have behavioral problems for years to come, if not for the rest of it’s considerable life. Much less than retail indeed.
The fact is, if you put an animal up for adoption, you’re doing it because you cannot or will not care for it any longer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it always your fault, but that’s the reality of the situation. As such, if I take that animal and give it a good home, I’m doing you a favor. Stop acting like giving me something you don’t want at “much less than retail” is helping out. For some of these animals, I feel I should be charging you for taking your damaged property off your hands. Unfortunately, coming up with examples of this are far too easy, I ran across another one just a few minutes ago. A guy wants to dispose of a blue-throated macaw because his other bird doesn’t like it. The macaw was intended as a breeder, but failed to perform with a female. Now in and of itself, this isn’t problematic, but he put out pictures of a bird with a very overgrown beak and claws, in a cage that was clearly staged for the photo, it has a single toy that has never been touched by the bird. While I don’t want to generalize necessarily, I’ve found that most “breeder” animals have never been properly socialized and don’t make good pets to begin with, they’re not really tame, they don’t have much human interaction and frankly, they’re probably more trouble than they’re worth. That’s probably not true of all breeder animals, but for the majority with which I’ve had experience, it is. So great, we have a likely emotionally stunted bird that the guy wants to get rid of. He says he still wants it to be a breeder since blue-throated macaws are relatively rare, but he’s advertising it in a pet-centric place. Why does he think people ought to take his problem bird and pay him lots of money for the privilege?
I’m really sorry to be constantly ranting about this but it’s really gotten to me lately. When you have an animal, you owe it good care, just like if you have a child, you owe it a healthy life. People act like animals are disposable and they ought to be rewarded for taking bad care of their animals and passing the problems along to a new owner who hopefully will do a better job. Certainly, not all animal owners are that way, but if you look at enough of these ads, you find that so many are horrible, with sick, abused and emotionally damaged pets. As cruel as this is going to sound to some animal lovers, I really think that once an animal gets that abused, has that much trauma, etc. it might be better if they were put down. They’ll never live anything remotely resembling a normal life, they will always be traumatized, they will always be damaged, physically, emotionally or both. I applaud people who try to take care of these animals, who open their homes and their hearts to hard-luck cases, but for so many, there’s little hope of ever finding that forever home, just because they are far too difficult to handle. Again, saw an ad for a rescue that had an umbrella cockatoo that had been attacked by dogs and had it’s wing ripped off. To add to the horror, it was then stuffed in a cage for 8 years without any human interaction. This results, not only in a mutilated bird, but one that is so traumatized that it will never recover. Why exactly would someone in their right mind adopt this bird? Wouldn’t it be more humane to euthanize it? I certainly think so, especially when there are a dozen other birds in better condition, with a brighter outlook, right behind it.
All of these examples are things I see day in and day out. It’s not horror stories that I seek out, this is commonplace in the pet community. Bad owners and bad situations produce “bad” pets. Yes, I know it’s not the animal’s fault, I know it’s not fair, but life isn’t fair. We need to save the ones that can be saved and for the ones that can’t, we need to be humane. There’s a never-ending flood of unwanted animals, we simply can’t save them all, no matter how much the heartstrings might wish we could.
I’ve always been willing to help out, take in as much as I can, find good homes, etc. I will continue to do so as I find good animals to help. For those who are seriously damaged though, for those that take a heroic effort to save, maybe they’re just not worth saving. Maybe we, in the rescue community, need to be more selective about what animals we save. It’s not emotionally satisfying, but it’s intellectually necessary. How much good are we doing taking in the true hard-luck cases, other than letting bad owners know that these animals will find a home, and probably generate a few bucks, no matter what they do to it?
I’m here to do good. I’m not here to reward those who do not.