Have you seen the latest trending hash tag #adoptdontshop on your social media feeds? This hashtag is worth a thousand lives as it encourages people looking for pets to Adopt, And Don’t Shop.
You might be wondering what it all means?. Adopt, Don’t Shop is a campaign slogan that a growing number of animal rights proponents are using to promote adopting pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores.
“Saving one animal will not change the world, however for that one animal the world will change forever.”
As far as internet activism goes, animal rights have mostly been on the positive end of it all. Dedicated pages advocating humane treatment of stray animals, support to local shelters and even fundraisers for individuals caring for stray animals are hard to miss on one’s daily social media feed.
Social media, hashtags and the internet gives leverage to animal rescue groups, volunteers, animal rights activists and local rescue centres by giving them a platform to educate society on some of the unthinkable and mainstream animal cruelty acts that go on in our world. Even as the unthinkably cruel practices against animals – the sacrificing of goats, lamb and even camels for the Islamic festival of Bakr Eid; the singularly hard to digest celebrations centered around the torture and killing of dogs in China during the Yulin festival; and the punishingly brutal games involving bulls, bison, cocks and even rats continue to occur all around the world – with the connection power of the internet many animals are saved from the atrocities of such occurrences.
Understanding how the lives of stray animals are different and decidedly more difficult than those of pets and farm animals (in a manner of speaking) is important to appreciate why #adoptdontshop is a vital movement for animals across the world. Here are some of the things we might not realise are part of the reality that every puppy, kitten, calf and lamb will face when it is born without a place to call home:
Stray's are less desirable by mainstream culture
Stray animals are constantly in competition with specially bred animals, vying for the onlooker’s attention and kindness. Breeders, in 99% of the cases, are equivalent to rapists in that they enable/force the females to be raped by the males as many times as possible to keep producing saleable offspring. If, unfortunately, the baby animal does not pass the criteria of being a profitable sale, it is either killed or dumped outside to die. Millions of such cases are recorded annually and some of the happy ending stories can be found on sites such as thedodo.com, however millions more go un-noticed.
However, worse is the case for the strays because even if the special breed animals come from cruel beginnings, they mostly get sold for high prices to families who treat them as trophies and can at least ensure medical care, de-sexing (one hopes) and proper nutrition. Strays get no such shot at a better future and are destined to find their ways the best they can on roads and alleys, cowering and living in fear of the awful noises and cruelty that humans so naturally direct toward them.
Shelter's struggle to protect the vulnerable
If you have a local animal shelter, pay them a visit and you will find the same problems everywhere. Shelters are often overcrowded and underfunded. Lack of staff, lack of medical equipment, lack of nutritious food and proper care for sick and injured animals is a common feature of government-run/-aided shelters everywhere.
Animal shelters rely very heavily on volunteers and fundraising from local communities to meet even the most fundamental needs of their work – food, medicine, cleanliness. In developing countries, even staff salaries are managed by volunteers and at times staff work for no pay for months because they love the animals and cannot abandon a sinking ship.
This is also the reason why ‘kill shelters’ exist. Kill shelters don’t start out aiming to euthanize animals for personal entertainment. They become so overwhelmed by the constant influx of sick and injured animals and the absolute lack of adopters that they have to give up on the less hopeful cases and take the last resort. You can learn more about this here.
Lack of medication and vet care
If you have a pet, you probably also have their medical history, a neat little booklet of their vaccine records and all other little comforts you know your four-legged friend loves. These luxuries are not possible at a shelter, where animals are dumped from all corners of the region, in all states of illness and injury.
Despite pleas and petitions, vaccines are hard to come by for all animals, resulting in many animals succumbing to otherwise manageable diseases and infections. At times, due to the lack of space and staff, sick and healthy animals are kept in the same enclosures (or in worse cases, in cages) where they contract whatever infection their roommate carries. Even if kept in close quarters, animals sharing feeding bowls, water and bedding will quickly fall prey to the insidious infections that are commonly found in stray animals and not treated timely. The permanent lack of disinfectants, bedding supplies, isolation booths and of course, vaccines, ensures that infections wipe out large numbers of shelter animals before they are even diagnosed
If adopted, some animals get a second chance at life and their pet parents can ensure proper vaccination courses for them with a quick visit to the vet and routine checks.
Little funding and government support
Another hidden menace threatening the lives of strays and shelter animals is government control. By stating on paper that the govt. is sponsoring or funding the local chapter of RSPCA or other animal rescue program, shelter and/or hospital, they get to claim large sums of money from the central government. The central government in turn gets to tax the people, in turn ensuring that the average citizen shirks from donating anything more to such shelters thinking that their taxpayers’ money is already going to them.
However, in a disturbingly large number of cases, the local authorities muddle the papers, stomach the money and leave the shelters to be run by the kindness of volunteers, the unconditional dedication of staff and one or two true animal-loving managers and sheer dumb luck. No amount of questioning or request from the shelters in such cases have an impact on the authorities, because in their eyes, stray animals should be left as strays, injured animals should be left to die in peace and if an animal is having too many babies, it is the law of nature. (I am given to think that these are the same people who think women’s bodies aren’t their own and who despise planned parenthood centers.)
Life at a shelter
At my own local animal shelter, there are roughly 1300 dogs, 300 cattle, rescued monkeys, donkeys and horses, and a whole section for big and small birds including hawks, kites and owls. Two years ago, a generous volunteer and donor got a cattery built. It now houses around 38 cats and kittens. This past December, someone dropped off a sickly kitten with mangled hind legs. The vets never came to see the kitten and the para-vets could not diagnose her for many days and as a result of the lack of medical attention she slowly got weaker from pneumonia. I took her home to treat her and she got better, but as soon as she was back at the shelter, she got worse in two days and died. Her pneumonia took five more cats, all of which where healthy adults.
Another kitten drop-off introduced a viral strain of feline distemper and because none of our cats have access to any vaccines, we lost seven more over a two week period. When brought to the attention of the medical officers at the shelter, they shrugged and said they will try to get the vaccines. Now they routinely harass the manager there by threatening to release 50% of the animals to fend for themselves on the street. Can we do something? No. The government authority of my city is ironclad in legal mumbo-jumbo and short of my taking ALL the animals home and caring for them for life, there is little I can do besides going there daily, giving them whatever medicines we can manage and loving them my best. If this little anecdote made you feel things, remember that this is the story of most shelters, most everywhere.
How you can help
By challenging and activating your community to put pressure on the local authorities to do better by their animal shelters, you can help. Ask exactly what medical equipment might help a team at the shelter and pool in money to get that installed. An incubator or a nebulizer can save many lives. Learn more about how to impact local stray animal lives, help with TNR and adoption camps by following Kitten Lady and Beth Stern. Learn how to give initial care to rescue animals by asking for help online, questioning the local vet or finding a certification course online that can train you in veterinary first-aid. Sign up for programs such as Workaway.info and travel to help people building shelters around the world, while learning on the job.
If you are an animal lover, today’s world is a good place to turn it into a mission. Knowledge is power. So, if circumstances don’t allow you to volunteer or donate, remember to add the hashtag #adoptdontshop in your next post about the cute puppy you meet by the road. Every little furry baby in a home is ten lives saved at a shelter.
Article Written by Guest Writer Karishma Gaur who likes cats, books and soda pop, but one of these things is not like the other two. She teaches English and writes to earn and then spends it all lavishly sponsoring rescue kittens, shelters and her own coterie of feline munchkins. Her current favourite thing to do is to live green, clean and very lean. (Well, not as lean as she’d like but she picks her battles). You can find her arbitrary collection of thoughts and cat selfies over at gnarlienerd (Instagram) | gnarlynerd.wordpress.com (blog) | @karrietweets (twitter) Read more of Karishma's articles at The OM Collective here >>>