Some of the reasons people provide when they surrender a dog to a shelter are truly heartbreaking, genuine, understandable and come after all other efforts to keep the dog have been exhausted. Other reasons are, frankly, shocking and soul destroying – particularly for the many thousands of people who work in the UK’s over-stretched animal welfare system.
Back in 2008 The Dogs Trust reported these reasons/excuses as to why owners were unable to continue looking after their dogs:
1. “My dog doesn’t match the sofa.”
2. “The dog looks evil and has different coloured eyes, just like David Bowie.”
3. “My black dog doesn’t match new white carpet, can we swap him for a white dog?”
4. “My current dog is too old, can we swap for a puppy or younger model?”
5. “My dog ate the Christmas turkey cooling on the worktop.”
6. “My pet guinea pig got worried with a dog in the house.”
7. “The dog opened all the presents on Christmas Eve.”
8. The owner accidentally knelt in dog wee while cleaning it up so brought the dog in the very next day.
9. The puppy was bought as a present for elderly couple with dementia.
10. The owner was paranoid about recent bad press on Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and the dog was given up through no fault of its own.
Owning a dog is no big deal, it would seem. Because if circumstances change even slightly there are some people who have absolutely no hesitation in palming their dog off on to someone else to take over their responsibilities.
Clarissa Baldwin, former Dogs Trust Chief Executive and the person who came up with the slogan ‘a dog is for life not just for Christmas, was understandably angry.
“Some of the reasons we hear for dogs being abandoned are truly outrageous and saddening. Having a dog is a long-term commitment and our anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to remind people that dogs are not fashion accessories or disposable items that can be upgraded or discarded after just a few months.”
But here’s the problem.
We DO live in a disposable society nowadays. People do change their dogs – or their responsibilities to their dogs – as if they were getting a new mobile phone.
The question we must ask ourselves is what are we going to do about it?
There is an over supply of dogs in the UK. Too many dogs produced and not enough responsible homes to care for them all. It surely must be time for us to consider whether the problem of dog abandonment is going to get better or worse if we carry on with the same system we have now, where anyone can breed dogs. Where puppy farms thrive. Where people, seemingly, have absolutely zero shame when passing their dog on to an already stretched dog rehoming service.
Christmas is coming. Mark my words, we’ll be seeing more of this in 2018.