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Pets are a Privilege

Juvenile hounds scramble for rare attention from their small pen.

Chile the pit bull is a year old this month. She has spent the last eight months of her life tied up in a backyard. Her life exists within a four-foot radius of dirt, excrement, and flies. She has a piece of plywood leaned up against a wall that serves as her only protection from sun, wind, and rain. A shallow plastic dish used to contain water but now just contains caked layers of dried mud. Chile gets excited when people come to visit her, which isn’t often, and tries to jump on them, craving contact and attention.

Chile’s owner is an overworked, underpaid single mother. When asked why her dog is living in such deplorable conditions, she sighs. The kids wanted a dog so she gave in. But they won’t take care of the dog now and she doesn’t have time. She can’t afford food for the dog, so it eats random table scraps that the kids toss out to it. But the family really loves the dog, so they don’t want to give it up. Kids ranging from thirteen to three years old cry at the thought of giving up beloved Chile.

Reality check: PETS ARE A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT. IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO CARE FOR A PET THEN DON’T HAVE ONE.

For all those parents who assign their kids the job of caring for the family pet, wake up. Legally, morally, and financially, any pet in your household is your responsibility. Law enforcement will not cart your child off to jail for not feeding the dog. They will take you instead.

Pets can teach kids a lot. Responsibility, compassion, patience…the list goes on and on. Growing up with pets can build lifelong bonds with animals and family members and help mold kids into valuable members of society. But kids usually don’t learn these lessons on their own. It’s up to parents to remind them, guide them, and enforce the rules. Sometimes the lessons are tough to learn, traumatic even.

Surrounded by Chile’s family of crying kids and an exhausted parent, I remind them that sometimes, doing the right thing for a pet means giving her up. Living things can’t survive on love alone; they require food, water, and medical attention too. When families aren’t in a position to take care of the tangible aspects of life, then they need to make the tough decisions, for the sake of the pet. Forcing an animal to remain in miserable conditions for the sake of love isn’t fair, and it isn’t legal.

Humans seem to have a habit of missing things that are right in front of them. So pet owners, I ask you to see your situation with fresh eyes. If you find yourself in a position where you have to choose between food for the kids, or food for the pet, consider your options and find an outlet for your pet. If friends or family are unable to take on another mouth to feed, then seek out your local animal shelter.

No, Chile’s family won’t be able to keep track of her once they surrender her. No, the new adopter will not send them updates and holiday cards with pictures of Chile. But the family will be able to rest knowing that the shelter will do everything in its power to find an appropriate home for Chile. In her new home, Chile will receive proper nutrition, exercise, and medical attention. And of course, she will receive love.

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