So far, I have been to three animal shelters. The first one I visited was in Athens, Greece, which mainly looks after stray dogs, and some stray cats. I have also been to an RSPCA shelter in North London, which had a cattery, lots of dogs, rabbits, ponies and other animals. Yesterday, I visited a cattery in North London. I always enjoy visiting animal shelters because the animals are often very loving, and it is a joy to be with them- whether it is cleaning out their pens, taking them for walks or stroking them. However, there are always sad stories at shelters too which reflect the cruelty and fickleness of human nature. I met a black cat called Samantha, whose owner had died, and the cat’s son had died a little while after moving into the shelter. She was all alone in her pen, and looked very depressed. Her chances of being adopted are very slim because she is black (people prefer to adopt more colourful cats and overlook the black ones) and because she isn’t very affectionate (understandably, as she is feeling very down).
We spent an hour cleaning out litter trays, mopping the floors of the cat pens, providing fresh water and food, as well as stroking them. Some of them wanted to play fight with you, others wanted to jump on you and liked being carried around, others were content with a few pats, whilst others wanted to watch you from afar.
There are hundreds of cat and dog shelters in England, many of which are struggling due to the fact that more and more people are abandoning their cats and dogs (due to the recession), and more people are breeding their animals for profit (or because they think that puppies/kittens are cute & want to give them away to their friends). Additionally, there are some very dodgy breeders out there; not to mention puppy/kitten mills which often supply pet shops. These are commercial breeding facilities that operate with an emphasis on profit rather than animal welfare; as such they are often associated with horrific conditions for the pregnant females and offspring.
I am a huge fan of cats and dogs, but I cannot adopt any at the moment because I am a student and I do not have the stable lifestyle that such animals need. My parents have two dogs, Lassie and Marlowe (who was adopted 2 months ago). Lassie was a stray dog who we found in our neighbourhood, and Marlowe was adopted from the dog shelter. Both are very affectionate and loving dogs.
If I could have one xmas wish… I’d wish that no one would ever buy an animal from a breeder or pet shop ever again! I’d also wish that people would stop letting their animals have babies just to give away to friends; after all, those friends could have instead rescued an animal from a shelter instead!
Or, perhaps more realistically, I wish a new law would come in which would make breeders pay half their profits to their local animal shelters for the trouble they would undoubtably be causing them later on. And another law to prevent people buying animals from pet shops- instead, pet shops should act in a responsible manner and direct people to their nearest animal shelter.
How you can help animals in shelters:
1. If you want to adopt an animal, don’t buy one from a breeder/petshop or even adopt one from a friend. Instead, visit your local animal shelter and have a chat with one of the volunteers.
2. Don’t be breedist! All animals are beautiful, whether they are mixed or pedigree. If you are determined to have a pedigree, they often pop up at shelters. Alternatively, ask the volunteers at the shelter which animal is in most need of a home; maybe its the animal that has been there the longest, or maybe it is an animal with black fur.
3. Talk to your friends and family about this issue, especially if they are considering breeding their animal. Encourage your friends and family to adopt animals from shelters!
4. Volunteer at your local shelter- it really is fun and educational- especially great for kids to develop respect for animals and an understanding as to why they can’t have a cute puppy or kitten; there are lots of older animals that need a loving home at shelters! That said though, shelters are often inundated with puppies and kittens.
5. Donate some money to your local shelter- they really are doing a fantastic job! I can imagine that volunteering year after year and not seeing the problem improving in the slightest (in many cases, the problem worsens, as the recession has shown us) can soul crushing. To have the strength to go on, year after year, is something admirable!
6. Don’t support pet shops that sell animals; take your business elsewhere! Even if the pet shop are supplying animals from the most credible of breeders, they are still denying the chance of a shelter animal to find a loving home.