One Hundred and One Damnations

Writer: Elizabeth K Morris

Photographer: Elizabeth K Morris

 

“…seven out of ten Australians [cite companionship] as the main reason for getting a dog or cat”Australia has one of the highest pet populations in the world, yet every year, approximately 200,000 healthy dogs and cats are euthanised. This figure does not include animals that are put-down due to sickness, inbreeding or behavioural problems. These are animals that don’t have a home to go to, even though they meet adoption standards.

But why are these numbers so high? If we have such a love for animals, why are so many being put down?

There are a number of factors that come into play when answering this question. The biggest ones being that people want puppies; people want kittens. What people tend not to want, is a middle-aged dog with emotional baggage, or a cat with trust issues.

According to the Australian Veterinary Association, “companionship is the driving reason behind pet ownership, with seven out of ten Australians citing it as the main reason for getting a dog or cat.”

But if we want companionship, don’t we have a responsibility to these animals? You don’t see a mother abandoning a screaming toddler in a supermarket just because they’re having a tantrum. We don’t walk away from our loved ones if they’re experiencing mental health problems.

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Having a companion animal benefits both the owner and the animal, as a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found. According to leading researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio “…pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

The study also found that there was “…considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support.”

With puppy farms rife within Australia , the public needs to be doing more at an individual level to combat this problem. Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and the rejection of pet shop puppies and kittens is essential to stopping these practices.

What people don’t realise is that these animals, the ones from pet stores and ‘backyard breeders’ from Gumtree and Trading Post, can be as emotionally and physically damaged as their shelter counterparts. Inbreeding, chronic health problems and inadequate social interaction can leave these animals with the same issues that shelter  animals are rejected for. The difference between these two, however, is the choice the potential pet-owner makes when choosing a pet.

The power is indeed with the people. For our feathered and furry friends, it is unfortunate that their lives are subject to supply and demand. As long as young animals are in demand, the flow of puppy and kitten farms will not be stopped.

I’ve lived with a rescue dog for eleven years now. He was two or three when we adopted him — he still had the puppy playfulness without being an actual puppy. When I got him he was so skinny I could see his ribs. He had been abused by his previous owners, and was timid and nervous. He had abandonment issues, too. Every time I left the house he would jump the fence and follow me. Nowadays, everyone who meets him comments on how friendly and happy he is. He’s put some weight on (perhaps a bit too much) and very much believes that the back garden is his and his alone.

He’s happy and he’s healthy, and he has helped me through many a tough time. Do I ever look at him and wish I had gotten him as a puppy? Yes, but only so he didn’t have to experience the pain and suffering I know he felt on the day he was dropped off at Lort Smith Animal Hospital. I wish he could have avoided  feeling abandoned by those who were supposed to be his protectors, his family.

There’s no way of knowing when you look at a puppy whether or not they’re from a puppy farm. But there is a way of knowing a rescue animal. It’s the look in their eyes when they realise, that finally, they mean something to someone.

 

Elizabeth studies Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria University, Footscray.

 

 

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