Addicted to Pets: So you’re thinking about ditching your pet?

What is the purest of love? Yes, family is absolutely a deep, unwavering and all-important love. Significant others? Yup, those are great. Babies? Well, ya popped ’em out, you’d damn well better love them. Friends? Of course!

But for me, animal relationships create a kind of love that can’t be fulfilled or recreated in any other way. We can forge incredible relationships with animals based on very real love, understanding and friendship that need never be cheapened by summary in mere words. Until one of you croaks, you are, in many ways, responsible for one another.

Here are a few situations in which it’s acceptable to forsake the pet you committed to caring for:

  1. You’re dead.
    I’m sure they’ll miss you more than all your friends will.
  2. You have developed some damn near extra terrestrial allergy to them.
    Given that you’re not an asshole, however, you’ve carefully scouted for a new home for your pet(s). As you know, they had zero control over you deciding to take their lives into your hands. You, who lacked the presence of mind in your own life to figure out whether you’re allergic to pet fur or not. And given that you’re about to traumatize them and disrupt their lives, the least you could do is make it a painless transition.
  3. You, or the pet, are ill and an adequate quality of life cannot be provided.
    This is a tricky one. If a pet owner is genuinely and tragically unable to properly care for a pet, it’s only right that an able caregiver be found. If your pet is extremely ill, and you’ve exhausted every possible means by which to care for them, you could consider rescues or other groups who might be better equipped to manage its health. But that should be in extenuating circumstances. I’ve watched my family nurse elderly and sick family pets painstakingly by hand to the bitter end, and it’s excruciating for all parties. But it’s basically what you signed up for.
  4. Some extreme, forced change of lifestyle.
    I don’t even know what that entails, but it’ll be my cover-all. Even then, it is on you to carefully find a responsible, safe, loving home for the life you took responsibility for. That’s all there is to it. Not ready to struggle, take financial beatings, be stressed out, have your shit wrecked, lose sleep and clean up countless messes? Then don’t EVER adopt a pet. Or have kids.

Now, here are situations where it’s definitely NOT acceptable/understandable/reasonable to give up your pet(s).

  1. Your new boyfriend/girlfriend is allergic/hates animals.
    In the former situation, pop a Reactin and STFU until the relationship inevitably crashes and burns, and in the latter, send them to therapy. People who actually hate animals are not to be trusted and are likely heartless and soulless, so continue to prepare for aforementioned crashing and burning.
  2. You’re going to have a baaaaaabieeeee!
    Nothing more beautiful and comforting than a parent-to-be abandoning their last dependent in the face of potential inconvenience. From what I hear, ain’t nothing glamorous about parenthood. Your life won’t be your own anyway, so you might as well bite the bullet and learn how to juggle both of the types of parenthood you’ve committed to. If you’re careful, your precious little Jr. very likely won’t catch some terrible cat disease that your Diary of a Mad Mommy handbook warned you about. Plus, it’s healthy and heartwarming to watch a child grow up with a pet. Embrace it.
  3. It’s inconvenient.
    It’s not what you thought it would be. Your lovely home is a mess, your furniture is paying the price, you can’t find a piece of clothing not covered in pet fur. It’s just not the right “fit,” you know?No, bro. I do not know. Did you ever stop to think, before adopting, what pet ownership would entail? Beyond the cute kitten and puppy faces bouncing around your head, did you consider the pros and cons, and the implications for your current lifestyle? No? Are you not an adult human being?? How do you manage to get through each day without egregious injury to your person?
  4. Your pet is old and sick. It’s no fun anymore!
    I saw this more than I cared to when I volunteered at the Humane Society. One notable case I recall is Tiffy, a beautiful, elderly German Shepherd with crippling hip dysplasia who was just ditched at the shelter overnight. She was in such poor condition that she couldn’t be admitted to the general kennels and was cared for specially out of the volunteer coordination office. She was emaciated and nearly immobile, and within weeks for receiving proper care, she was lit up with life and enthusiasm, bit by bit regaining her mobility. She’d never be spry again, but she was far from done. It’s beyond me how someone can share an entire life with an animal, enjoying love, laughter, comfort, joy and a downright insane inter species trust, and then when the going gets tough, ditch them and leave their fate up to an overloaded, underfunded system run by strangers. Right when they need you the most, are in the most pain, feel the most vulnerability and fear. You’ve got to be one cold mofo to pull that stuff and live with yourself.
  5. You’re moving.
    That’s cool. I hear your pet isn’t nailed down to the floor of your current abode. And, if you do some basic research, you can find out how you can fly your pet to your new home, both domestically and internationally, as well as what requirements other countries may have for you to fulfill before allowing your furry friend within their borders.

Life is never black and white or cut and dry. The unforeseen pretty much always happens, and the best we can do is handle it with some semblance of dignity and respect for ourselves and those we affect. In a perfect world, none of the above would interfere with a human-animal coexistence.

If at any point you take on the responsibility of another living being, it it 100% your absolute duty to take the best care of that animal. That includes responsibly re-homing them if your situation is so genuinely dire that you have to surrender them. “Responsible re-homing” does NOT include ditching them at a shelter, on the street, in a dumpster or anywhere else. It does not include giving them to the first loony tune who replies to your ad on craigslist or kijiji. It quite obviously doesn’t mean causing them any harm because you can’t deal with your own decisions. They will never forget you or being abandoned. They’re live, sentient creatures with personalities, quirks, memories and capacities for emotion. If you can’t imagine doing your due diligence to find them a safe, trustworthy forever home in the event that you can’t keep them,  you are not ready for a pet.

Abandoning your pet has real consequences, even if you won’t have to live with them. Some animals will go on to be re-homed.  Some will never recover from your betrayal, and may never adjust to a new home. They may not be seen as adoptable and could live their lives out in the shelter system.

The reality is, if you don’t want to spend time, money, energy and resources on a pet, don’t get one. Get a cactus instead.

Emy Stantcheva
Emy Stantcheva is a lifelong music junkie-turned-music biz dabbler, from music publicity and artist management to the not-for-profit sector. By day, she champions the indies at Canadian Independent Music Association and MusicOntario, and moonlights as Lifestyle Editor for Addicted and rep for southern rock n’ roller Basia Lyjak. A healthy living fan (yes, vodka is a plant), vegetarian of 20 years and lover of cooking, wine and craft beer, she’s always on the lookout for tasty and cruelty-free wares and fares. She’s also known for her hoarding of cats (she has four) and leggings (300 pairs and counting). With her feisty way with words, Stantcheva brings a fresh and intelligent perspective to Addicted’s Lifestyle section.
Emy Stantcheva