I love animals, not just my pets but animals in general. I am not vegan or vegetarian, but I don’t believe this precludes me from identifying myself as someone who cares about the plight of animals both domesticated and wild.
I believe animals should be treated with kindness and compassion. I was brought up with the belief that when you bring a pet into your life, it is your responsibility to look after that pet. It is up to you to make sure your pet is loved and kept healthy and safe. I don’t believe there are any bad pets, just bad pet owners.
I decided to blog about this particular topic now because we live in a town where there seems to be an increasing number of stray dogs and cats. I am saddened when I see these lost dogs and abandoned cats wandering aimlessly around the neighborhood and busy streets searching for food, water and shelter. I am tired of seeing them laid out in the middle of the road yet another victim of a speeding motorist. It causes me great distress especially because, realistically, I can’t do much to help. The stray cats and lost dogs just keep coming.
I will never understand why people won’t take care of their pets. Why bring a dog into your life if all you’re going to do is leave it chained to a post all day and night or leave it unattended, roaming the back yard during all kinds of weather? These are both miserable ways for a dog to live. Dogs are companion animals – this means they need companionship! If you’re just going to leave a dog outside and chunk food and water in its general direction, why bother with a pet at all? I have seen so many small dogs trotting along dangerous roads recently, undoubtedly many having wandered off from an inattentive owner, that I almost dread having to go out. Perhaps people don’t realize that dogs are easily distracted. It doesn’t take them long to wander off when their nose is to the ground taking in the glorious aromas of their environment. Why people aren’t more vigilant with their dogs is beyond me.
Of course, cats seem to get the really raw end of deal. I will be the first to admit, as a cat owner, that cats can be challenging to live with – they play by their own rules and they are not the easiest pets to train. (Do your research before bringing home that cute kitten!) Becoming frustrated with your feline friend’s “unique” behavior; however, does not mean you just chuck it outside to fend for itself. Abandoning cats to the “great outdoors” is especially problematic because, contrary to popular belief, it is not easy for cats to survive the streets and, if the cat isn’t spayed or neutered, you are further contributing to the stray cat population as they are such prolific breeders.
Our particular neighborhood is currently overrun with young stray cats. In the past, we managed to catch a couple of females for spaying and release. We have taken stray kittens to the vet for check-ups and shots then tried to rehome them, but trying to help quickly becomes overwhelming and emotionally, and financially, exhausting. I still remember the kittens we had to have euthanized because they had already tested positive for feline leukemia and FIV. I still remember the kittens we had to surrender to animal control because the no-kill shelters were completely full. Despite a vet once telling me that taking strays to animal control is a more humane end compared to the short life they will endure wandering the streets, it doesn’t make me feel any better.
I also care about the plight of wild animals – those facing extinction, those hunted or raised strictly for their fur, those hunted for “sport”, and those still forced to work under torturous conditions in circuses around the world. While I don’t consider myself an “extremist”, in the West Texas town where I live, even my views are considered unusual and “soft.” Even in general conversations about animals and pets, it has been insinuated that I care less about human life and more about animal life just because I am an animal lover. One person actually said to me, “We value human life more.” (An interesting statement from someone who considered herself a pro-choicer, but that’s a discussion for another time.) How she concluded that because I am an animal lover I somehow don’t value human life, I’ll never know.
So what is the point of all this rambling anyway? I guess I wanted to set the record straight about being an animal lover or at least what that means to me. (Excuse me while I resort to bullet points!)
- Pets don’t ask you to bring them into your life – you make that decision. This makes YOU responsible for their health and wellness, regardless of the time and financial investment this requires. If you are unable to care for or find you don’t get along with a pet, rehome it in a responsible manner, don’t dump it on the road side where it will inevitably meet a miserable end.
- Wild animals deserve protection from the greed and vanity of man; a greed which has already driven many species to extinction or the very brink of it.
- Unless we can find a way to arm bears, deer, elk, moose, etc. I don’t believe in hunting for sport.
- I don’t believe we need to adorn ourselves in fur of any kind (I personally think fur looks best on the original owner). The only exception to this would be those native peoples around the world who truly live off the land and who utilize local animal species for all aspects of their survival.
- I believe the use of animals in circuses should be outlawed. Worldwide. Period.
- And – just throwing this one in for good measure – using animals for cosmetic product testing in particular is an out-dated and unnecessary practice. I try as best I can to buy cruelty free products though this is sometimes a tricky area to navigate.
Finally, just because I am an animal lover does not mean I value animal life more than human life. I’m not a complete loon – I happen to value all life.