As we are considering getting another doggy at the moment (when I say another, I obviously mean in addition to not instead) I started reflecting on the way a lot of people see and treat animals and how animals are victims of our consumerism, too. Not only do animals and the environment suffer from all the pollution we cause but they also become part of our throw-away culture. Like technology and cars, animals like dogs, cats and horses are considered must-haves and “things” that symbolise our status in life (I won’t even speak of the millions of bunnies, guinea pigs and other rodents who are bought as Christmas presents for little children only to be discarded the next year).
So, because I am thinking of expanding my family, I have been discussing the topic with colleagues, friends and neighbours. These discussions made me ponder the attitute a lot of people have towards animals, even those who see themselves as animal lovers and actually keep their animals for their entire life. Still, a lot of people, for instance, prefer to get a dog or cat from a breeder as the dog has to be pedigree (completely ignoring the negative effects decades of inbreeding had on these poor creatures) or get their dogs online from ebay as they’re offered cheap or sometimes even for free. Although I do not at all understand how people can make a living selling animals, I have a harder time understanding people who offer animals like an item on sale.
To be perfectly honest, I checked out ebay and gumtree for horses and dogs before but the way people tried to get rid of their former family members was disappointing at best but mostly shocking. While I am at it – confessing my sins I mean – I will also confess that I have paid a total of ca 650€ (ca. £500) for both my horses. The first one I got for 500€ because I had been riding it for 3 years already and she did, in fact, not want to make money from him and knew that he would have a good life with me (side note: if I am not mistaken, it is actually illegal to give away animals for free in Germany) and the second one I paid £100 for and only because she practically wanted to be reimbursed for the money she paid for her half a year before.
So, I know that I have benefitted from the “animal refuse” of other people. I know that I would not have had the money to buy a horse for a couple of thousands but I also know that I rather spend that money on taking care of my animals.
Another thing I’ve noticed in these discussions is how reluctant many people are of getting an animal from a shelter. Rescue animals are – sadly – still seen as damaged goods. I mean why else would someone not want them anymore, right? But the fact is that the problem is usually the human and not the animal and it is actually very fascinating how many abused and even tortured dogs (and probably cats too) still seek love and affection from humans. For us humans one bad experience is usually enough to give up on an entire group of people or parts of life. The good thing about getting an animal from a shelter is that you know that some highly dedicated people (usually volunteers) have spent a lot of time assessing the animal trying to ensure that neither the animal nor the person adopting it gets cheated in the process. They want both animal and human to find each other and have a happy ending.
I got my dog from a great private dog rescue in Edinburgh and because of it I knew what I was getting into. I knew that she had some quirks based on the fact that when she came to us not yet 3 she had experienced everything from being beaten and bullied by other dogs but also love at her third and fourth home. The only thing she didn’t know was what it would feel like to have a permanent home. She is not damaged – at least not beyond repair. She is beautiful, adorable and sometimes our only source of sunshine in this mostly grey country (I know I am all for the stereotypes here ;-).
In comparison, when I got my second horse (and I want to highlight that I do not regret getting her at all or ever think of giving her up), I only partially knew what I was getting into. My experience told me that there must be something in her past that led to the fact that she had 6 owners in 8 years and to me being the third within 12 months. But like my dog, she is not damaged beyond repair – she just needs a lot of time and patience. I am sure as hell no horse whisperer but even under my less than professional care she went from refusing to be touched to craving contact, from being “unridable” to an (almost) reliable hacking pony.
Even though I refuse to consider adopting animals as a part of a zero-waste lifestyle as they are neither things nor waste, I want to highlight that the problems we face of animals being offered on classifieds pages and of overcrowded shelters are just further examples of the negative effects of our consum-oriented mentality. We always want the cutest dog or the fanciest horse and when they’re out of fashion or we are overwhelmed with their demands, we simply throw them away and get a new one.
I know that there are cases of animals ending up in rescue homes that have nothing to do with their owners not wanting them anymore. My blog is not a criticism of those personal tragedies that force people to give up their loved ones due to ill health or other massive life changes. All I want to say is that many of the problems we are facing like debt, environmental issues, healt problems and shelter overcrowding are all connected to the same problem.
The picture is from this page and not chosen as an example of a bad rescue but only because it fit the topic.