For the love of Dog
My childhood dog, Neddy, had manky bald bits and he’d scoot across the lawn on his bum whenever we had company. He was partial to trying to have sex with inappropriate things. But we could dress him up and he’d sigh with martyred forbearance and let us photograph him.
Our cats were called Soft and Stupid, and Hard and Hairy.
Later there was Sophie, and Fergus, and Sam. And of course long-forgotten goldfish who always got flushed. And rats called Romeo and Juliet. Juliet ate Romeo. I think it may have been my fault for forgetting to feed them.
Now we have Sangio, and even thinking of him dying makes me ache (though after last week I hesitate to use the words ‘dog’ and ‘love’ in the same sentence).
He’s a little crazy, a little too clever. When I write at home he lies across my feet and when we go away without him he takes days to forgive us. He hates kangaroos and there’s one horse he can’t stand. But he quite likes sheep. And rolling around in disgusting, rotting things.
When he was younger he’d get so excited to see us, or visitors, that he’d lose control of his bladder. This unfortunately generally coincided with the moment at which he was jumping up on them, so several people have been victims of this firehose-like spraying. It’s a sign of affection, of course.
Most of us love our pets and treat them like part of the family. But animals are an industry, so selfishness and profit creep in.
The RSPCA kills tens of thousands of pets each year; around a third of the dogs it gets, most of the cats, and almost half of the ‘other’ animals. It’s not as easy as you’d think to work out why the ‘kill rate’ is so high. It’s partly oversupply, combined with negligent owners, mistakes, all those feral cats and stretched resources in shelters – some think shelters may be a little too quick on the kill switch. We don’t have all the answers. But here are a few things we should do:
1. Stop puppy farms. Stop ruthless, cold-hearted bastard backyard breeders who have no concern for the conditions in which they keep their breeding machines.
2. Stop pet shops from selling animals. Only properly licensed and trained breeders, who know the mum and dad, who know all the circumstances of the animals’ lives should be allowed to sell those lives. And they should be encouraged to vet the people.
3. No pet should be allowed without education to go with it. Puppy school should be mandatory, to socialise the dog – and the owner. And all cat owners should be taught about how to stop their cats killing native animals and should pay to spay.
4. All pets should be microchipped, with the owner to bear the cost. If you can’t afford the education and the microchip, you can’t afford the pet. Regulations right now are a patchwork across the states.
5. We need to work out what to do about feral cats. It’s these, not owned cats, who create the bulk of the problems for the shelters.
6. Help those people who find new homes for pets.
We need to stop the oversupply of animals, the profiteering by unethical mouth breathers, the unthinking ‘impulse buying’ of pets, and this slaughter of animals that are often healthy. As Michelle Williamson of Pet Rescue (a not-for-profit which finds permanent homes for homeless animals) will tell SBS’s Insight tonight:
“(What) we want to see an end to is killing, which is killing for convenience, killing for space, killing because we haven’t got time or we don’t want to invest in rehabilitation.”
Read Miles Heffernan’s piece on The Punch today for more about the complexities of animal euthanasia.
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