"Could an animal caretaker please come up to the front for 2 rabbits".
Intercom pages like this happen several times a day at HAWS, with the only variation the type of animal that has been brought in. HAWS has an intake of about 6,000 animals per year, and so that's an average of about 15 animals per day that walk through our doors. Many times these are animals that are being surrendered to HAWS by their owner.
With large numbers of animals being brought in, it's very easy for those of us in animal welfare to become jaded and resent the owners who want to give up their pets. After all it can sometimes seem that if people were more responsible we wouldn't be in a position to take in as many animals and maybe animal shelters could become a thing of the past.
This is especially true because many times the reasons for the surrender of the animal are less than valid. There was the woman who surrendered a parakeet because she was redecorating her daughter's room and the bird didn't match the new color scheme. There was the 10 month old German Shorthaired Pointer relinquished because he had too much energy.
Surrender reasons like these could be preventable if the owners were only educated and learned how to be a responsible pet owner. The woman with the parakeet should have been taught somewhere along the line that a pet isn't a decorating accessory, but something you bring into your home because you enjoy having it's company.
And the owners of the adolescent dog should have done their homework about the breed before getting a puppy. If they had they would have discovered that GSPs are one of the most energetic breeds and need a strong commitment to daily exercise. It's through education that HAWS hopes we can make a difference and reduce the numbers of unwanted pets coming through our doors.
However, we also hear other reasons for people to have to surrender their animals. A good example is the Cockatoo that was brought in to HAWS a few weeks ago. Sam's owner was diagnosed was emphysema. Living with birds can endanger people with respiratory illnesses because the large amount of dander parrots produce greatly exacerbates the medical condition.
HAWS has had animals surrendered because the owner died; because family members were diagnosed with serious, life threatening illnesses; and because the house was foreclosed upon, and the family couldn't find housing that accepted their pets. All of these are valid reasons, and if a shelter wasn't available to accept the pets, who knows where they would have ended.
HAWS is committed to educating the community because we feel that education is the key to reducing the numbers of animals that walk through our door. If people can be encouraged to do research before their bring their pets home, and to continue their education throughout the life of the pet, we would have fewer surrenders. Education would allow people to make better choices as to what animal would fit in best with their lifestyle, give them realistic expectations for how the animal would behave, and allow them to think about whether they had the time and finances provide proper care.
In the meantime animal welfare agencies can provide a place for homeless animals to be safe, and provide compassion for anyone surrendering an animal. Because if we show compassion we open the door for people to listen to our message, and perhaps the surrenderer will have the tools to
be able to make a better choice with their next pet.