Top animal charities spend £500 million a year saving unwanted animals.

Are animal re-homing charities failing animals?

We all know that the thousands of animal “re-homing” charities in the UK and around the world are doing wonderful work in finding new homes for hundreds of thousands of animals each year, because they are quick to tell us so and we see their great work depicted on television documentaries and in the press. As donating public we revel in the glow of sad stories and happy endings of animals finding forever homes and for this reason we throw millions at these charities to enable them to continue.

The top eight UK charities spend £500,000,000 each year to support the infrastructure to “save” and “rescue” animals from us humans. In the case of the Dog’s Trust, the UK’s leading dog charity, this works out at £8,100 per dog to care for and re-home the 13,141 dogs (2017 figures).

It would seem on the surface that the animal re-homing charities are doing a really good job and making the most of the money we give to them, but should they judge their success by the number of animals they take in and re-home or by what they are accomplishing in reducing numbers in the first place.

The Humane Societies of the United States (HSUS) is constantly criticised for not giving enough of their funds to animal shelters, but they once succinctly responded by declaring that their aim was to “prevent cruelty and stop animals entering animal shelters in the first place”. It could be argued that the re-homing charities are perpetuating the problem of irresponsible pet ownership by offering a free service to accommodate and re-cycle unwanted pets, strengthening the creed that they are disposable objects.

Each year the number of unwanted and abandoned animals never seems to decrease.

Are animal shelters just re-cycling plants for irresponsible owners.

Each year the major UK animal re-homing charities take in tens of thousands of unwanted dogs, over a hundred thousand cats, thousands of horses and donkeys and hundreds of thousands of rabbits and other small animals. All these figures could probably be doubled, trebled or even quadrupled if you consider the numbers taken in by the hundreds of smaller UK charities.

Local authorities supposedly dealt with 7,000 stray, abandoned and unwanted dogs in 2017 of which over 2,000 were put to sleep although these figures seem far too low. The Cats Protection charity alone cares for nearly 50,000 cats annually.

If official figures are correct, we are supposedly getting on top of the abandoned and stray dog numbers on the streets, but half of the dogs that the Dog’s Trust accept, 6,500 (2017 figures), are strays from local authorities. Any slight decrease is more than matched by the increasing number handed into animal rescue centres by fickle owners so the status quo remains despite continuing campaigns and free neutering. This results in more facilities opening to cope with the continual flood. To make matters worse we are increasingly importing other countries’ stray and unwanted animals. We have had a cat and horse crisis for several years now and an increasing problem of unwanted exotic pets which has resulted in even more charities to rescue them.

While charities are happy to continue picking up the burden there is no incentive for the government or the law to intervene or take notice. The UK Government almost entirely washes it hands of the subject and even relies on animal charities to collate figures on the state of our animal keeping habits such as the RSPCA with their cruelty figures and the PDSA with their PAWS survey otherwise we would have no idea of the problems.

Kittens, rescue, animal rescue,, abandoned, unwanted
The number of stray and unwanted cats in the UK is incalculable.

There must be more to animal welfare than just re-homing dogs and cats.

The charities will argue that they only exist for this purpose, but surely this is a short-sighted outlook and instead of proudly proclaiming the increasing numbers they are finding homes for, they should strive to decrease the numbers becoming unwanted in the first place.  There must be more to animal welfare than just re-homing dogs and cats, but most charities seem happy to just tread water, accept the status quo and never make inroads into solving the major welfare problems. Do we just accept this as a fact of life and money well spent or should we expect more from them? Perhaps it is time for a completely new mind-set.

Pet obesity is no laughing matter.

We should view obesity in pets as an act of causing unnecessary suffering in the same way as starving an animal.

Obese dog Animal rights and Wrongs

It is a sad reflection of our attitude to animals that we are happy to upload videos concerning pet obesity onto social media sites like YouTube which ridicule fat animals that are struggling to walk, stand or perform natural behaviours. Many seem to find this entertaining, which is clear by the fact the “Likes” on these videos always out-number the thumbs down.

The video below, which rightly disgusted one of my friends who shared it with me, is as she inferred in her post, a good advert for viewing the act of overfeeding an animal a prosecutable offence. It is just as much causing unnecessary suffering as starving an animal to near death.

“Canine obesity classed as a disease”

Obesity in pets has been in the news recently and countless surveys have shown that just like humans over-feeding and obesity in our pets is on the increase. According to a British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey which polled 1,600 vets, 60% said obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for UK pets. A recent World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) One Health meeting officially classed canine obesity as a disease.

Pet obesity is a potential killer.

Prof. Susan Dawson, President of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) stated: “All companion animals deserve a nutritionally balanced diet; in fact it is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Acts”. 

“A case of killing with kindness”

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the BVA has said: “Obesity is a potential killer for pets and many owners show love for their pet through food, but often this is a case of killing with kindness – most animals would instead enjoy playing or interacting with their owner just as much as getting a treat”. Source

In the USA 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are judged as obese. A 2017 study of over 1600 dogs in the UK showed that 65% of dogs over 2 years old were overweight and 9% clinically obese. Source

Dogs under 2 years old fared little better with 37% overweight and 3% obese. Obesity is a life threatening ailment and can lead to a variety of conditions such as shortened lifespan, heart disease, kidney and respiratory problems, strain on joints, arthritis and diabetes.

If the situation is so serious why do we not treat pet obesity more seriously?

None of the publicity asks the vital question of whether we should consider the act of over-feeding a pet as an act of causing unnecessary suffering or cruelty particularly when it reaches the point of preventing the animal from enjoying its natural behaviours and functioning as a normal dog or cat.

Despite all the evidence that it causes an animal harm and is avoidable we  just view the owners as misinformed and ignorant souls who need educating. We do not take the animal from their care or prosecute them when in many cases it is obvious that the animal is suffering both mentally and physically. We have a similar situation when it involves children.

Obesity in cats, overweight cat,
Cats are just as susceptible to obesity as dogs.

There is a lot of ringing of hands in the veterinary profession of not taking the subject seriously enough and not doing enough to combat obesity in pets particularly dogs, but blaming vets for not weighing dogs and recording notes during consultations is not really the answer.

Pet obesity the fault lies with the irresponsible owners.

Vets are busy enough as it is without having to take on what is the responsibility of the owners who must be aware of when their pet is getting overweight and capable of doing something about it. Surveys suggest that 33% of owners only take their dog for a short walk once a day if they are lucky, 68% do not check they are feeding the right amount for the size of animal, 26% feed leftovers and 30% never check their pets’ weight. Are these the actions of a responsible owner?

I firmly believe that overfeeding a dog or cat and allowing it to become morbidly overweight equates to causing it unnecessary suffering and is an act of cruelty and must dealt with in the same way as an animal that has been almost starved to death. Removal of a pet should also be considered as owners often lack the will-power and ability to diet their pets, which is clear by them allowing it to happen in the first place.

It is no laughing matter for any animal that has been allowed to get in this state.

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