August 23, 2012

Don’t Call the ASPCA! ~ John Geary

I think we should get the full story before we jump all over “animal abandoners.”

Because I am an animal lover, I connect with many other animal lovers through Facebook. A disturbing trend I’ve noticed lately is the practice of jumping all over people who, for whatever reason, give up an an animal. I know there is often more to the story than what is evident in a two-line blurb on Facebook.

Let me make a couple of things perfectly clear:

(1) I abhor people who simply abandon animals.

(2) I wonder why people acquire pets then give them up for frivolous reasons—i.e., “I’m too busy with my new job” or “We’re expecting a baby.”

That being said, there are some reasons that are valid ones for giving up an animal.

Sometimes it is not a matter of convenience; sometimes, we do not always know what the full story is.

Perhaps, for health reasons, someone has to give up an animal due to a life-threatening animal allergy. I have had that experience.

I had two cats for seven years—the loves of my life. Then I met my future wife. We dated for two years, but after she moved into my townhouse she was going to the hospital once a month with asthma attacks brought on by her allergies to my cats. She loved them, but could not live with them, even though they had their own room in the furnished basement and were let outside to play each day. After two years, we had to move to a smaller place (an apartment) and there was no way she could live with them and still be alive herself. We found them a good home—an empty nester couple on an acreage.

I suppose some will judge me harshly for that, but I could really not help the fact I fell in love with someone who was allergic to cats. I mean, I didn’t have a checklist that asked, “Are you allergic to cats?” “Do you like watching NFL football?” “Can you eat chocolate or are you allergic to it?” So with much heartache, we found them a good home and said goodbye.

But I can say that when my wife wanted to adopt a bird, I made it clear she had to prove she was not allergic as I would not be getting rid of another pet.

I’ve also been on the other side of it.

My double yellow-headed Amazon parrot was given up a week before his previous owner was moving out of Canada to the United Kingdom because of his job—and could not import that bird into the country with him. (The European Union had a ban on the importation of exotic birds).

This, too, is what I call a valid reason. The previous owner had lived with Einstein for ten years, and had helped him recover from a crushed pelvis and collapsed lung. This owner was not an uncaring person.  So I don’t feel anger or criticism of that man, just sadness for his bird (who is now my bird.)

Most of my friends know that I’m a career journalist, and those in my profession are often taken to task for not digging into the full story; not finding and presenting all the details. If someone is basically taking off and leaving an animal, that’s wrong. But before we assume that’s the case and criticize, we should always try to find out the full story. The details in these types of situations are often pretty sketchy and designed to elicit an emotional response. (In mass-media terms, this would be called, “sensationalizing.”)

I am not defending anyone’s action of just taking off. I’m just saying we can all maybe reserve passing judgement when so few details are presented in any given situation. It may be a case of a person needing some compassion just as the animal does.

Or maybe not.

But I think we need to hold off on the condemnation, just a bit, until we know more details.


John Geary is a full-time, professional journalist, who worked in radio and newspaper for 15 years before beginning a freelance career in 1999. His work has appeared in more than 70 publications world-wide (e.g., online, magazines, newspapers, newsletters). He has a special interest in eco-travel, conservation and animals—both wild and domesticated. He has lived with cats and now is owned by three parrots: two Congo African greys and a yellow-headed Amazon. Two of them were adopted after leaving other homes.








Editor: Alexandra Grace

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