Waiting for a Fur-ever Home

According to Dogs Trust’s Stray Dogs Survey in 2016, an estimated number of 81,000 stray dogs were found wandering around the streets in the UK last year, and almost 3,500 of them were put to sleep because of various reasons. But as sad as it may be, shelters are not the ones to blame for this, the dog owners are.

People always say, “Dogs are a man’s best friend”. This is not just a saying. It is actually proven by scientific researches that owning a dog has positive impacts on a person’s well-being.

A study by the Manhattanville College shows that even though there aren’t any significant differences in the level of happiness and positive emotions between pet owners and non-owners, pet owners were found to be more satisfied with their lives, and dog owners were happier than any other pet owners.

But if that’s the case, why were there more than 81,000 stray dogs in the UK last year?

According to latest data from RSPCA, the UK’s dog population was 8.5 million in 2015. The same year, 102,000 stray dogs were collected.

Why are the reasons people give for abandoning their dogs?

Photo: Nir .B. (CC)

Photo: Nir .B. (CC)

Sally Hyman, chairperson of RSPCA Llys Nini and Swansea who recently received the Gold Queen Victoria Medal for her exceptional work and long service as a volunteer, has witnessed countless times people leaving their dogs to their shelter. “There are two big reasons why people give up their animals as far as we can see. One is a break up in a relationship, so partners are separating, they are either going back to living with their parents or to a smaller accommodation, and they don’t want to take the animal. And the other is economic, because they are downsizing.”

Photo: RSPCA Llys Nini Shelter (CNP)

Photo: RSPCA Llys Nini Shelter (CNP)

Susie James, chairperson of Friends of the Dogs Cardiff, says they ask the owner the reasons when they come to the shelter to abandon their dogs.

“Typical reasons are: I’m pregnant, my new boyfriend is allergic to dogs, my kids are allergic to dogs, I’ve changed my job, my landlord won’t let me keep my dog. For me, these are all things that are predictable. You buy a puppy, and depending on what age you are, you can estimate that at some point you are going to get married, at some point you might get a job, at some point your tenancy might end, at some point you might decide to have a family and get pregnant. Before you even think about getting a puppy, you need to know, come what may, I’m gonna be here for that dog.”

A study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy in the US in 2010 also showed that the top five reasons for relinquishment of dogs were moving (7%), landlord not allowing pet (6%), cost of pet maintenance (5%), too many animals in household (4%),  and owner having some personal problems (4%).

So as opposed to the popular belief, people who leave their dogs to shelters or even on the streets are rarely the elderly or the very sick. But this doesn’t mean that elderly people have a harder time taking care of their dogs.

Photo: Pip (left) and Jessie(right) by Friends of the Dogs

Photo: Pip (left) and Jessie(right) by Friends of the Dogs

“One of the things I do struggle with is when families of elderly people say ‘Oh, we got a dog to keep my mom company.’ No, that’s your job, not the dog’s”, says Susie. “Like Jessie (right), she was not born to sit on an old lady’s lap all of her life, get fat and not enjoy her puppyhood, not enjoy walks in the park, and not enjoy going out playing with other dogs. But unfortunately, a lot of elderly dogs come in because their owners are really not able to care for them anymore, and there is nothing you can do about that. Some of these old people aren’t even able to look after themselves.”

With age comes wisdom, but not always luck

Photo: Rlink at English Wikipedia (CC)

Photo: Rlink at English Wikipedia (CC)

“The time we get a peak in incoming dogs will be typically just before Christmas. We get old dogs and poorly dogs. Dogs with either acute or chronic medical issues, and we know those dogs have been dumped because somebody’s getting a new puppy for Christmas, we know it. I’ve seen it every single year”, says Susie.

In his National Geographic documentary series, the Leader of the Pack, Cesar Millan tries to find home for dogs that are “deemed unadoptable”, and one of the reasons he finds is the dog’s age. This is because people want puppies, and think older dogs may have more behavior problems. After all, why would their owners have left them if there wasn’t something wrong with them, right?

Photo: Erick Pleitez (CC)

Photo: Erick Pleitez (CC)

“You can categorize rehomers”, says Susie. Whenever we get puppies in there’s always a high demand for them. Especially we are now seeing it with designer breeds coming in, like pugs and frenchies, we are actually starting to see those in rescue now. In the main, these are people who want a puppy, they don’t want to rescue or adopt, they just want a cheap puppy. But every single dog was a puppy once. People don’t seem to understand that yes, you can adopt a puppy, but you are going to wind up with a dog in six months, and in twelve months time, it’ll be a mature dog.”

But Susie says more and more people are starting to understand  the importance of adopting an older dog.

“It’s a very different demographic that will be interested in our older dogs. They tend to be people who genuinely understand what it must feel like to be an old and abandoned dog. And we exponentially get more shares and likes when we put the pictures of our older dogs in social media. Actually it is very very easy to adopt a young dog and give it an amazing life. It is really difficult to take on an old  and give it an amazing death. There is such a thing as good death.”

Listen to Susie James’ interview on adopting older dogs:

If you are elderly or sick and having a hard time taking care of your pets, visit The Cinnamon Trust’s website: http://www.cinnamon.org.uk/cinnamon-trust/

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