Living in the country as we do, we like to think that our pets have a good life. Along with all their special places inside our home, our dogs have plenty of room to roam in our fenced yard and a huge wooded area for their daily leashed walks where they can check out interesting natural sights and smells without the hazards and hassles of city traffic. Our cats seem quite content to be indoor pets and, thanks to our catio, they can experience the great outdoors without exposure to the accompanying dangers.
Yet, there is also a darker side to country living as it pertains to pets. Sadly, there are still people who view a rural area as an acceptable place to abandon their unwanted pets, perhaps telling themselves that doing so is more humane than finding new homes for their pets or surrendering them to a shelter.
Over the years, we have taken in a number of animals that showed up on our doorstep, searching for a home. These include Alby, a female Australian Cattle Dog, who arrived at our gate one blistering summer day both starving and dehydrated. Our other two dogs at the time, Yoda and Hershey, bonded with her right away, and Alby soon became a full-fledged family member after our search for her previous owners was unsuccessful.
Kit Kat, a big tuxedo Tomcat, arrived when a neighboring family moved from their rental house to another state, leaving him to fend for himself. Another cat, Elaine, was a nocturnal visitor to one of our outbuildings where an outdoor light attracted bugs, which she hunted for food. We gradually worked our way closer and closer to her and finally were able to bring her indoors where she lived out her life very happily.
Alby, Kit Kat, and Elaine were among the lucky ones. Unfortunately, most stories of rural abandonment don’t end as happily.
Pets left to fend for themselves in the country run a huge risk of injury or death from attacks from traffic, local wildlife (coyotes are a big problem in our area), fights with area dogs, and more. Unskilled in how to obtain food or find water in a strange location, they quickly become weak, leaving them even more vulnerable. If they find their way to a house, they may be appear to be diseased and driven away from the home—or worse.
Abandoned animals can also create a hardship for wildlife, pet, and livestock populations. From dogs that are forced to group and hunt as a pack, often taking a toll on livestock, to homeless cats that prey on birds, abandoned animals can be hazardous to both home and agricultural interests. Disease can also quickly become an issue.
As rural residents, we’d like to remind anyone considering pet dumping that the future that awaits most dogs and cats left by the side of the road is short and bleak.
Image of dog via Shutterstock