Baxter Black: The problem with pets
September 12, 2012
People love pets. Let me rephrase that; pets have a welcome place in many households around the country. Approximately 1/3 of all homes in the U.S. have a cat or dog.
It is a common response when students are asked why they chose to go into the veterinary medicine or vet tech professions, to say, "I just love little animals!" Psychologically it is possible for some humans to literally "love animals." They can develop an extreme attachment to them or, more likely, to one individual pet be it a dog, cat or horse.
I would guess the preponderance of these very close attachments occur during childhood and have a deep, emotionally entangled relationship. As a person matures, starts a family and acquires grown-up responsibilities, a pet-affection must compete with other important demands on their heart. A person may still enjoy the company of a dog or cat. I have been surrounded by dogs and cats most of my life. I had one or two that I shed a tear for, and many more who were "part of the farm life," i.e. cowdogs, barn cats, strays, ravens, rabbits, fish, a good horse, county fair animals and the occasional 'marker' beast. I figger if we gave the animal a name, even ones like Born to Buck or Lead Foot, we have elevated them in our consciousness.
In a recent study, over the last ten years pet ownership is down 2.4 percent. Analysts concluded it is the economy and changing demographics, i.e. two parent families with children are the most likely to have pets. As America and Canada move away from traditional households, pet numbers decline. It can be an expensive hobby these days for the average family.
However, fear not that they are in danger of extinction. There are still 70 million dogs and 74 million cats living in our homes and, to our consternation, millions more are being dumped on our farm roads and/or taken to the local Humane Society (not to be confused with the much-maligned Humane Society of the U.S.).
There are radical animal rights groups who want to outlaw the raising and selling of registered breeds of dogs. Their convoluted logic is that people who would like to own a dog of their choice should be forced to buy a pet from a local animal shelter instead (see Missouri Prop B 2011).
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Those of us who live in the country realize irresponsible pet owners, just like irresponsible horse owners, will neither neuter nor spay their pets. And if they become a nuisance, they will drop them off down a country road. They assume the animal will find a home. The truth is, we who are being dumped-on usually take on the responsibility of humanely disposing of your unwanted, abused or neglected animals. We do it for the animal's sake, just like the local Animal Shelters do. And let me tell you, we do not take pleasure in killing the animals you don't want.
So, the decision you make when you consider a pet is not, 'how you will raise and care for it', but 'what will you do when you decide you don't want it anymore, even though your children just love little animals.' We all will thank you.