In the few years that I have been an animal welfare volunteer, I have observed nearly 400 dogs being abandoned by their owners. The reasons vary: the dog’s illness, old age, blindness or the owner getting transferred to another city, relocating to a different apartment or having a baby. The eternal question I ask is — “Would you do the same to your child, citing the reasons mentioned above?”

Several pet owners seem to be under the misconception that the dogs can survive the abandonment. The truth is that they go through immense anguish and trauma, and many do not survive the shock of finding themselves on the streets or in a shelter. Being house pets, they are not ‘street-smart’. Only a few lucky ones (like a pair of Great Danes rescued from the street a few years ago, and were later brought into a shelter) find homes with new owners. Even these animals survive only because of being given plenty of love and individual attention by their rescuers and new family, not to mention intensive medical care if they have been abandoned when they were sick.

I don’t want to generalise as there are many people who make huge sacrifices and lifestyle changes to look after their pets. However, the trend of abandonment is gut-wrenching. We sometimes find pets tied to poles in the scorching sun, with no access to water. Others are found with maggot wounds all over their bodies. While their backgrounds are different, all of them have a sad story to tell.

Responsible pet ownership involves being aware that a companion animal needs your support even more when he or she is ailing from an illness. When you are thinking of adopting an animal, ask yourself if the pet can be cherished, with his/her love being reciprocated and if you can stick with your decision in the years to come. A pet is a part of one’s family and cannot be viewed as a dispensable commodity. In fact, they teach us valuable lessons on unconditional love. They cannot voice their pain but they deserve the freedom to live full and happy lives, free of the pangs of hunger, thirst or suffering.

(The author is a core committee member, People for Animals. To adopt an abandoned pedigree pet, you can reach her at sathyakk15@gmail.com)

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