“Free to a good home” and other myths
Adrienne Calvert – Toronto: Online classifieds are now the channel of choice for people looking to re-home their pets. While many of these listings are placed by caring individuals who are truly trying to do the right thing and find a new, forever home for their pet the majority of these ad’s are placed by owners of impulse bought pets and/or their own “oops” litters from unaltered dogs and cat’s. The excuses are always self-serving and the same. “We are expecting a baby and just don’t have time for buddy anymore”, “I have allergies”, “we’re moving and pets are not allowed”, “the kids don’t have interest anymore”. To this I say, apparently you weren’t already six months pregnant when you brought home that cute puppy and of course, you never realized that you had allergies. It’s completely understandable how you can forget that you own a dog when you sign a new lease and I wouldn’t expect my kid’s to learn any form of responsibility nor take ownership?! My favorite excuse is the “we didn’t realize the dog would grow so big” because of course, it is not a well-known fact that a Great Dane is a large breed. Really now, you’re only kidding yourself.
For clarity sake if you review just one local online classified site you will see that today there are 679 listings for “to give or donate” free pets. There are also a staggering 2395 dogs and 1324 cats for sale on this same site. (source: Kijiji GTA). It goes without saying that life long pet-retention is drastically decreasing in our City. Some blame the economy, some blame money hungry, over producing breeders, some blame pet stores supplied by puppy mills. The list of wrong doers goes on, and rightly so, but rarely do you hear of people pointing the finger at themselves. I personally place the blame on a lack of education with respect to animal rights and ownership. With responsible pet ownership comes an understanding that having a pet is not a right, it is a privilege. You are agreeing to take responsibility for a life and with that should come an understanding of the time commitment involved along with the financial and emotional expenditures you must be prepared for. Pets spay and neuter, proper training and socialization are all a part of what responsible animal ownership is about. You are raising that dog or cat to be a part of your extended family.
Now this is not to negate the fact that there are people who have no choice but to try and re-home their pets. Sometimes life throws more at you than you can handle and you know, no matter how heart breaking it is, that a new forever home would be the best situation for your furry companion. This is not an easy decision to make but it can be right, when it is best solution for your pet. Many of these people in posting “Free to a good home” ad’s are trying to show that they are not looking for money but what is best for their companion.
Unfortunately, in any situation where there is the potential for good, there always seems to be someone looking to exploit. These people are aware of the free pet ads and see a very profitable opportunity. To many, a free pet is a disposable pet. Your very much-loved companion can end up being passed around, from home to home, for the remainder of what is likely to be a short and unhappy life. The “free pet” is far to often put in a situation where he/she will be neglected, abandoned and abused. The rescue community can attest to these facts first hand along with frequent and vile scenarios such as dogs being used as bait in dog fighting rings or cats and dogs ending up in a laboratory for testing which is completely legal in Ontario. Your pet can be “adopted” by what is known as a “buncher” whose sole intention is to resell to the highest bidder with no care or concern to the well being of your beloved pet. Unaltered animals are also highly likely to end up as breeders in an unsanitary and lonely puppy mill, until their time runs out and they are grossly disposed of.
So, what can you do? To start with, spay and neuter your pets. Adopt from a reputable shelter or rescue group; you are more likely to be matched with the perfect fur companion this way. Finally, if you find yourself in the gut-wrenching situation where you must re-home your animal, start by reaching out to breed specific rescue groups, friends and family. If you do place an ad online, always outline the adoption fee and adoption criteria. If someone cannot afford the adoption fee, how can they afford food and veterinary care? Be specific with your questions. You need to know what kind of home and family your beloved is going to. Ask for previous pet history and have the potential adopter provide their vets contact information. Be sure to have at least one on site home visit, at their home not yours. See where your pet will spend their days and nights. Lastly, take your time. This is not a decision to make on the fly. You need to scrutinize every person that contacts you. The right new owner will be patient and will also want what is best for the animal.
In closing, this is a growing issue that people need to be aware of. There is a real crisis in our pet community and it is up to responsible pet owners to be heard and to create Change. Please, write your local editors and tell them to stop supporting animal abuse by allowing the unregulated sale of dogs and cats in their newspapers and on their websites. Don’t be afraid of your own voice, you may just save a life.
*Note: All dogs featured in this article are rescues and now living in loving, forever homes. Please Adopt, Don’t Shop.