Animal Aid

IT'S ONLY NATURAL - The real pet industry

Posted 1 December 2003
Sadie (aka Titch) - discarded at the age of 14.

The following article is reproduced from the Winter 2003 issue of Outrage - Animal Aid's quarterly magazine which is sent to all Animal Aid members. To find out more about joining Animal Aid click here.

In this column two issues ago I told you about the little dog in the picture. She's called Sadie (aka Titch). She is 14 years old and was handed over to us in April this year by her previous 'owners' who had tired of her, even though she had lived with them from when she was a puppy.

Sadie is thriving with her new canine playmates and human family. Her appetite is startlingly good, and her formerly bowed back legs have almost straightened, thanks to the long daily walks she is receiving. (She moves like a demon and resists being picked up even to traverse awkward, brambly woodland).

Lizzie is another tale. My wife and I had never in our lives closely encountered Yorkshire terriers. Yet, less than four months after being gifted Sadie, little Lizzie also came into our lives.

She was brought into the Animal Aid office by a woman who claimed that she had simply turned up in her garden. My wife and I spent some three hours going door to door, with Lizzie tucked under my arm, in the vicinity of where she was 'found' - but no one recognised her. No reports had been made to local vets, or to the police or dog pound. She had been dumped, not lost.

Our vet estimated that Lizzie was 16 or 17 years old. She had a massive protruding hernia and a bad cough that made the hernia worse. She was a dramatic addition to our canine family; a bold, energetic, comical and gorgeously appealing character. We had her for just three weeks - her ailments becoming markedly more severe until the fairest thing was to put her out of her misery.

Just eight days later, another of our dogs, called Jessie, who had lived with us for four years, also had to be 'put to sleep' because of worsening heart disease.

It was not a good time, but not an especially uncommon experience for those of us who collect other people's discarded dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rats, horses, reptiles etc. While these unwanted souls are generally regarded as fallout from an unsentimental 'pet industry', the reality is that a great many of them - perhaps the majority - are not mass produced in hatcheries and rearing units, but are domestically bred - one litter at a time in ordinary flats and houses throughout the UK. They are the responsibility not of hardened professionals but of people like your neighbour and parents, or the couple who run the corner shop.

Why is it done? The justifications are all too familiar: "She's such a lovely temperament, I wanted her to have just one litter ... it's only natural ... all the pups/kittens will be found good homes ..." and so on. The answer to most such claims and explanations is this: consider the sanctuaries up and down the country overflowing with animals - all of whom were at one time 'wanted' and placed in a 'good home'.

More than 200,000 healthy dogs, alone, are killed every year because no one will have them - about 25% of that total being pedigrees. As for the 'it's only natural' argument: What is natural about the life we make for our domesticated animals, with those veterinary visits, canned (for most people) food and a roof over their heads?

Yes, the pet industry is the people in the streets around you. They trade or give away their live produce through small ads and cards in newsagent shop windows. The problem starts there and it must stop there.

The next time someone tells you: "I'm going to let her have just one litter, it's only fair, they'll all be found good homes"... dare to tell them the truth. The Jessies, Lizzies and Sadies of this world deserve nothing less.

Andrew Tyler
Director, Animal Aid

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