Sunday, October 10, 2010

Deciding NOT to Get a Pet

I firmly believe in adopting and rescuing animals - dogs, cats, horses, whatever, and would whole-heartedly recommend that anyone looking for a pet to consider this option.  I wish that I could convince more people to adopt animals, and I'm sure that those that work or volunteer at shelters or rescues feel even more strongly about it.  But in my conversations with friends considering getting an animal, friends that HAVE gotten an animal, and reading the reasons that many animals are surrendered to local shelters, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that not everyone should adopt (or purchase, really)  a pet.  And yes, I'm sure that there are some of you out there that are saying, "Well, DUH," but it really did take me this long to get to the point that I could admit that to myself, let alone publicly on my blog.

Obviously, anyone who is inclined to abuse an animal is not ideal pet owner material.  I wasn't referring to THOSE sorts of people, who should probably not even be allowed to have a houseplant of their own, but to people who have good intentions, but still cannot provide the home that an animal needs to thrive.  

1.  Time.  I think that this is the big one.  If someone does not have time to add anything else to his or her schedule, then introducing a new animal to his household is probably a big mistake.   Is there a work-around?  Sure.  If an adopter can afford it, he could hire someone to look in on the animals in the middle of the day, or even take the new pet to daycare.  Or someone with less money might be able to have a relative or neighbor check in with the animals.  Maybe with cats, who use litter pans indoors and don't necessarily need outdoor bathroom breaks, someone could choose to adopt two, to keep each other company during working hours.  But in my humble opinion (and take that for whatever it's worth) if someone has to work long hours, and has a busy evening social schedule, or will have to leave the pets alone to travel a lot, that person should think long and hard before adopting an animal.  

2. Stability.  I will admit it.  I torture myself on a regular basis, and read through the ads on Petfinder, or at the local rescues, reading the descriptions of the animals that are looking for homes.  But one side-effect to this rather masochistic hobby of mine is that I read lots and lots of reasons that are given for surrendering an animal to a shelter.  And one of the big ones is that the owners had to move to a place that did not allow pets.  Now, I know full well that we can't see into the future and plan for every eventuality, and I know that the economy is still pretty rotten, and a lot of homeowners are being forced to "downsize," sell their homes, and move into rental properties, some of which do not allow animals.  So I'm sure a lot of these surrenders are due to that.  But some of them make it pretty obvious that the person KNEW that their housing situation wasn't permanent and chose to bring an animal into it anyway.  That is selfish.  Animals are not throw-aways, to be discarded whenever they cease to be convenient.  If a person doesn't believe that they can provide a home for that animal for the forseeable future, then he or she has NO business getting one.  And for heaven's sake, if a person does have to give up animals for housing reasons, every reasonable effort should be made to rehome these pets, instead of surrendering them to a shelter.  

3.  Babies.  Everyone loves babies.  But oftentimes, pets don't.  It seems like a lot of Petfinder ads mention a new human addition to the household being the reason that a pet is surrendered.  I find that very sad, and brings me back around to my "animals are not disposable" argument.  I know that many,  many households manage to get through those rocky first few months with both baby and animal, so I'm not saying that someone should never ever combine babies and pets.  But I do think that if a person is going to be having a little one any time really soon, they should be extremely cautious about getting a new animal.   Babies take a lot of time, and let's face it, those first few months of sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuation, feeding schedules, and sometimes inexplicable screaming are going to be challenging, and maybe even a little demoralizing.  It might be good to plan ahead - if a new mother (or father) is going to be tied up with taking care of baby's needs, who is going to walk the dog?  Clean the litter boxes?  Give the animals affection and attention?  If the answer is "no one" then maybe it would be best to wait until the baby is a little older.

4.  Money.  Let's face it, few of us (including me) are rich, with limitless resources.  And again, we can't see into the future and know how much money we're going to be asked to spend to keep our animals healthy.  No one can predict chronic illnesses, lay-offs, etc.  But some people clearly can't afford to keep an animal - if someone is struggling to feed themselves, then they have no business getting an animal.  That animal is just going to be eating sub-standard food (or possibly not getting enough food,) skipping routine vet care and vaccinations, and not getting taken to the vet in emergency situations due to lack of finances.  I will totally sympathize with an owner who is either in reduced circumstances or dealing with some major health expenses, but get really aggravated when I hear people talk about not wanting to spend the money for vet care, high quality (or at least decent quality)  food, or even heartworm preventative.  These things shouldn't be optional, and anyone who thinks that they are, shouldn't have a pet.  

So...  those are the reasons to NOT get a pet that jump out at me.  Am I forgetting anything?  


  1. All very good reasons! I think another thing to consider is why they want to get a pet in the first place. My boyfriend's dad is, in general, a good person - but he has this idea that breeding his Golden Retriever will make some money. Nevermind the thousands of dogs in shelters, or the fact that she isn't of show lines, has any performance titles, or anything. But it's a bad misconception that you can "make your money back" by getting a female and breeding her.

  2. i agree, these are all great reasons! i agree, rescuing is definitely the way to go. there are always great rescues in need of homes. i think adopting a pet is a huge undertaking and more people need to be aware of what is involved beforehand. thank you for raising awareness on this subject!

    also, we went to williamsburg today and met a greyhound but roddick was a little scared of something so tall :)

  3. Great post!
    I think you nailed it with the top 4 reasons!

  4. Really, really good post. I think the biggest key here is think before you get a pet. I have a few friends who got dogs because they looked sweet, and then ended up sending them back to the shelter because they couldn't handle them... case in point: a friend of mine got a blue heeler that was less than a year old.. maybe 10 mos... and completely untrained... house or otherwise. They lived in an apartment, and knew nothing of the breed. "He looked so sad, and he's really docile, with his tail between his legs..." Yeah, that lasted all of 2 minutes. He was just a terrible match for first time dog owners in an apartment.

    It is hard to hear that people can't care for their pets, and infuriating when they have pets, realize they need care, and ignore it. AGH... I'm babbling. Anyway, really great post.

  5. I totally agree. I believe people should think about everything that really entails taking care of a pet. They are like lifelong children and they require time, money and care. I also think people don't realize the training that is involved. Puppies and kittens are cute and fuzzy, but eventually they become adults with unwanted bad behaviors and then they become a problem. I have always been fortunate enough to be home with our animals and really it was the only way I could our little animal "farm".

    Great post. I like how well thought out it is.

  6. Great post. I would go as far as saying only licenced breeders should be allowed to breed. The licence fee should go towards them being checked periodically (without notice). I think all animals that aren't owned by a licenced breeder should be spayed, etc., that way we would eventually cut down on the numbers of pets needing homes.

    I'd have to say I'd rather there were no pets available (a very sad loss to those of us that do take care of our pets) than have thousands destroyed each year through lack of homes.

  7. Good thoughts, all! And I suppose a tall greyhound WOULD be kind of scary for a little guy, though they're gentle giants, at least. :)

    And good suggestions that motivation for getting a pet could be wrong too - that's a big one! Yes, getting one to breed to make money off of is never a smart thing to do, especially someone who doesn't know what they're doing. The shelters are full of the offspring that comes from that, and it's heart-breaking to see so many unwanted animals.

    I guess other bad motivations would be: someone thinking that a dog or cat is stylish and will impress their friends, or heaven forbid to give away as a gift to someone else.

  8. You nailed the top reasons to not adopt! Awesome! More people need to realize just what it really means to take on a pet, not just what it does for them. And that includes the trend-of-the-moment and gifting. If only more would see the adoption of a pet as a lifelong commitment...for those that do, their lives are enriched along with the pet's.

  9. I recently lost my senior cat Molly (almost 19 years old) and someone said to me while trying to offer condolences "well you still have three other cats right"? As if somehow they were all just interchangable and it was a numbers thing as opposed to a special kitty with an individual personality who was no longer in my life.

    So although I agree with you very rational points 1 through 4, I'd like to add another category of people who should not adopt pets if you wouldn't mind...

    #5 IDIOTS!

  10. Muse: I agree! More people need to realize that it is not about them, but about the animal. There'd sure as hell be fewer returns to the shelter if they did.

    Cat: I'm sorry for your loss - I know that is one of the hardest things to have to endure. And it's not helpful when you have idiots in the background offering advice.

    I have a kitty, Charlotte, who is terminally ill. There are a lot of people who have asked me why I don't just have her put down and "get another one." As if there could be a replacement for Charlotte out there. And I can't believe the lack of emotional intelligence that hides behind that question anyway.

    So yeah, I'll go with #5 Idiots as well.

  11. I'm going to chime in and say amen to everything that you've said. Time, Stability, Puppies, Money -- key issues to consider. The level of commitment to a rescued dog is equivalent to that of adopting a child. Do we give adopted children back? Gee, I hope not! How horrible! The same horror applies for a dog.

    Wonderful people are out there who SHOULD NOT adopt pets. They don't have the time, the space but sometimes people just they just don't think. I celebrate the person with this degree of self knowledge.

    Before we adopted Opie, we figured out what kind of dogs we did NOT want. We looked on the Internet for our dog first. We knew that if we went to the rescue, or the pound, we might fall in love with an entirely inappropriate animal.

    We got the dog that fit our family. Opie is perfect for us. He's just the right size, temperament and everything.

    I was in the dog park yesterday and a man was bragging about how allergic he is to his dog. He went to the pound and the dog chose him and that was that. He fell in love. Now he's on Benadryl every day and sweeps up fur several times a day.

    I'm sorry, but that's just silly. There was someone out there for that dog who IS NOT allergic and doesn't give a hoot about dog fur.
    I worry that eventually this man will get tired of drugging himself and sweeping.

    This is the type of decision making that causes problems.

    It's okay to be picky and find the dog that fits. A pet owner should be in it for the long haul. Choosing a dog that fits makes the long haul a pleasant haul.

    Choosing to forgo pet ownership is a valid choice.

    I wish more people would make such an informed choice. In the long run it's best for the entire puppy and cat population.

    Bottom line: Be responsible.

    So I say... AMEN!