The Dog Box

2017-12-28 06:00

CHRISTMAS is a time of giving. We often see images of gift-wrapped puppies or kittens, but is it wise and kind to give a pet as a gift.

Having experienced the tragedy of unwanted pets, I concur with the general view of welfare organisations that, except in a rare instance with consent and full, intimate knowledge of the people and animals involved, pets shouldn’t be given as gifts.

The responsibility of taking in a pet for its full life quota is enormous. The idea of animals being mere commodities is something I find unacceptable. How often have you been given a material present that you don’t really want?

Perhaps you re-wrap the unwanted item and give it to someone else. Somewhere down the line someone may actually want your gift and will keep it, but what emotional and psychological damage does this have on a living being?

Pain can be described as physical or mental suffering. At least the unwanted inanimate gift does not suffer grief or anxiety. But there’s too much denial about the ability of animals to feel.

Findings have shown that separation, loneliness and social isolation generate physical pain responses in the brain. This negative experience damages the previously healthy being. What happens to the unwanted dog, cat, bunny, or whatever unfortunate creature is the victim?

It’s obvious that they are going to be anxious, confused and lonely when neglected in the back yard, abandoned on the street or confined to a kennel at a home for unwanted animals.

Choosing a companion animal is a very personal decision. To successfully give a pet to someone, you would need to be convinced that the recipient has the financial resources to meet the dietary, medical, environmental and recreational needs of the animal. You’d need to be certain that the pet and its new guardian have compatible personalities.

Those are merely a few of the complex questions involved. Would you take it upon yourself to choose a husband or wife, or even a companion, for another person? Many pets are re-homed due to personality clashes. For example, a Border collie and a sedentary TV addict would be an untenable combination.

Another important consideration is the effect that relinquishing a pet has on children. Children often consider a family pet as a sibling. Giving away a pet implies to the child that living creatures are unfeeling, unworthy and thus dispensable, and that it is permissible to shirk responsibilities.

It adds to the erosion of commitment and empathy that should be nurtured in the home. The world is a very much poorer place for that. An absence of empathy eats away at the very core of our society.

Animal rescue organisations are overflowing at this time of year. Countless dogs and cats are abandoned as the year-end holidays approach. This is exacerbated by the frightening economic downturn and job losses we are witnessing in South Africa at this time. So much avoidable suffering is such a sad reflection of an un-caring society. Please make informed and responsible choices. Rather than giving a sentient creature, seek out a soft toy if the gift has to be a cuddly animal.

Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviour consultant) 039 695 0139.


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