Animal lovers are quick to cluck their tongues at people who give up their family pets, but all too often life circumstances change and keeping a pet becomes impossible, which is why more than 7.6 million pets end up in shelters every year in the United States.
Here are just a few heartbreaking reasons people are forced to give up their beloved pets every day.
A new baby creates all sorts of chaos, and the family pet is a common casualty. Some animals can become aggressive with children, which is dangerous and another matter altogether.
But sometimes a new baby makes caring for a family pet overwhelming. Take Claire Zulkey, who wrote a full confession about how caring for her once beloved Greyhound became a major hassle after having a baby. It’s common for couples to treat pets as if they were children but find that once they have actual children, there isn’t the time to sleep and groom, much less walk and care for a pet.
One mother, Jenny, has a 2-year-old and is expecting her second baby any day and experiencing the same anxiety about caring for her dog Finzi, which is acting out. Although she’s not yet ready to give him up, she’s fed up with harnesses and dealing with his increasing anxious behavior. Recently, Finzi attacked a neighbor dog, which has left her contemplating how long she’ll be able to keep him.
“If there’s another instance like the other week, he’s gonna cross the rainbow bridge,” she said at her wits end and nine months pregnant.
Does being aggressive with other dogs warrant a death sentence or a trip to the shelter? Would it be fair to give Finzi to another family who would likely find themselves dealing with the same aggressive behavior toward other dogs?
One bride was devastated weeks before her wedding when she was faced with giving up her dog because her financé’s landlord didn’t allow pets.
"I feel like I’m giving my child up for adoption," one woman posted on the Wedding Bee message board. "It’s 5 weeks until the wedding, and I’m going to have to take him back to his breeders 2 weeks before my wedding."
After reading about the bride-to-be’s sad decision, so many people, as they do on the internet, commented how terrible and selfish she was to give up her dog.
"Don't give him up!," one commenter wrote. "You never know where he will end up: (that's so awful…) There has to be an appt for rent that allows your dog. Please look harder."
But is that fair? The ASPCA suggests that when you’re looking for pet-friendly housing, you should make up a "pet resume," complete with a photo and a brief description about the pet to try and make landlords feel more comfortable with your pet. But is that a realistic expectation?
When Holly, a specialist in the Army National Guard, was deployed, she was terrified about what would happen to her beloved dog Jasper. She and so many of our service men and women have to cope with the reality that leaving for war also means leaving their pets. Luckily, there are volunteer organizations like Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, which has a nationwide network of foster families ready to take in pets of deployed military families for up to a year.
"Jasper was with an amazing foster family," Holly wrote in her thanks to the organization. "His foster mom not only treated him like her own, but she gave me the peace of mind so I could focus on the task at hand."
Holly says Jasper’s foster mom also made a Facebook page so Holly could check up on how he was doing while she was away.
There are many organizations in place to help military families find foster placements for their pets, and yet it's simpler for many to just either take their pets into shelters or just set them free, which will almost certainly kill the dog eventually.
One Australian soldier gave up his dog Prinny for adoption after being deployed to Iraq. Prinny was eventually adopted by a loving family who even wrote an open letter to the soldier to let him know his dog was safe with the Rescued With Love organization.
"I don’t know where you are, or how to find you to tell you Prinny is safe," Kae Norman from Rescued With Love wrote. "Maybe this will find you. All I know is my throat ached when I read your writing on that form when you handed her over — and I could not try to let you know she is safe, and very happy. Stay safe soldier."
No matter the reason people choose to give up their pets, one thing is certain, it always invites judgment. So what do you think?
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