The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

February 1, 2014

Maleah Stringer: Actions speak louder than words with our pets

Seemingly America has a love affair with our pets. The pet industry is a multi-billion dollar business. We see commercials showing us how much we love them and the extremes we go buying coats, toys and anything and everything. Animals are used in movies and books and greeting cards to convey a warm and fuzzy feeling.

But if we love our pets so much, why are an estimated 10 million animals (and that's what we know of) euthanized in the United States every year? Why are animals left outside in subzero weather? Why do people get dogs only to chain them outside or leave alone in small kennels? What is the point? How often do you see a greeting card with a chained dog on it?

I believe one of the problems is that many people think of their pets as humans with four legs, giving them human attributes and expecting them to act other than what they are. And when they act like a dog or a cat, the love affair often ends in the shelter. I am often stunned at what some people who have children expect their pets to put up with from those children. Being a child-friendly pet does not mean that little Billy can poke, hit, lay on, hug, pull ears and tails, take food and toys without ever having that pet protect itself with a growl or, worst case, a bite.

And when that bite or growl happens that pet ends up back at the shelter, labeled as aggressive.

Many people just don't understand dogs. They say they do. And on adoption forms they mark that they are a very experienced dog owner. Simply having dogs since you were a child does not make you experienced in dog psychology or in how to handle dogs with issues.

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