Abandoned Pets: The Hard Truth

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by Mary Grace Mauney

If you’re reading this blog, that means you’re a fan of Mister Migs, and that means you’re a dog lover. Therefore, you would probably never abandon a pet, because you know that it is cruel to leave behind an animal that loves you. But more than that, did you know that it is dangerous to the pet?

Many people imagine that the only damage done by abandonment is emotional, that while the pet may be lonely and sad, it will still survive and be able to make it on its own. This is why many well-meaning people might, when times are truly desperate, set their animal loose. They believe that it is kinder to the animal to let it take care of itself, since they can no longer care for it.

This is not kindness. It is a death sentence. Pets do NOT know how to take care of themselves when they are abandoned. An animal that has been domesticated its whole life, which comes from generations of domesticated parents and grandparents, does not have the “natural instinct” of a wild animal. People may cite feral cats or pariah dogs as examples that some pets do indeed make it on their own, but they’re not seeing the whole story. Firstly, these animals are the ones that survived; that’s a minority. Do you want to play the odds with YOUR pet? Secondly, feral cats are not simply pet cats that have been lost; they are cats who were born in the wild and have never been socialized. Some may be born from stray pet cats, but most come from generations of feral ancestors. As for “pariah dogs” and other stray dogs, these animals still ultimately rely on humans to survive. They feed on the scraps and garbage left by humans, or rely on handouts from begging. However, you should not count on this to help your dog survive if they are dumped; most will still die of cold/exposure, disease, poor diet, or simply not getting enough to eat. They may even be killed by another dog, or picked up by animal control and euthanized.

I’ve heard of people setting small animals like hamsters and rats loose, under the similar belief that such creatures have natural instincts that will help them survive in nature. This is not true either; a domesticated rodent is no better equipped to live in the wild than a domestic cat or dog. They will likely starve or be picked off swiftly by a predator. Likewise, as romantic an image as wild horses might be, a domestic horse will not fare well if left on its own either; most abandoned horses are found in horrible health, or worse. Most reptiles, like iguanas and other big lizards, need special conditions to survive in a cage (a heat lamp, controlled temperatures, exotic diets, etc.) and won’t survive in the American outdoors either. A snake might…but exotic snake breeds can wreak havoc on the American ecosystems! Invasive populations of boas and pythons are already a big problem in Florida from pets that escaped or were turned loose, and there seems to be no stopping them! Scary!

So please, pet-lovers, tell your friends, no matter what happens in their lives, never set a dog or any other domestic animal loose! They are NOT able to fend for themselves in the wild! That's why they're domesticated, not wild or feral. This goes for dogs, cats, horses, small pets like hamsters and rats, etc. It won’t just break their pet’s heart---it might just kill them.