The “Shame Game” Needs To Stop For The Sake Of Our Pets

Let’s offer support rather than shame and compassion in the place of callousness.

By Vjosa Isai

We’ve all seen the goofy images of dogs and cats wearing expressions of guilt on their faces with a white paper sign hung around their necks, declaring something along the lines of “I broke mom’s favorite vase,” or “I pooped in the kitchen.”

While “play” shaming these trouble-making pets on social media is in good fun, there is a more sinister type of shaming happening in the pet community towards owners who are forced to give up their pets.

In fact, these owners have grown even more vulnerable to shaming thanks to online forums and social media.

Take this example, from a recent posting in the Bunz Pet Zone group:

“If you are an animal advocate and you owner-shame: please stop — or better yet — spend a day with me on our hotline or in our clients’ homes. You never know what life an owner led before he walked in your door seeking help, and you certainly don’t know what awaits him when he leaves…If you are fortunate enough to have never surrendered your pet because life didn’t go as planned, count your blessings, knock on wood, and don’t shame those who do.”

Parting with a pet is not an easy call. Oftentimes, it’s a decision that is made after the owner has exhausted all options for trying to keep their pet in tow. Severe circumstances, including financial hardship or illness, may force an owner’s hand to re-home their pet. For instance, a sudden loss of income can handicap an owner’s ability to deliver the best care for their pet.

Get Leashed knows a few owners who are thankful they made the decision to invest in pet insurance after their pets required costly, unforeseen treatments and surgeries. While pet insurance is a smart investment, it’s not always within the financial means of some owners. Pet insurance is there to protect owners and their pets from hard times, but if owners can’t afford it, there’s not much that can be done to alleviate future hardship. It’s a catch-22.

For other pet owners, a major life event like a lay-off coupled with high vet bills for a sick animal can brew up the perfect storm that leads to the difficult decision of re-homing the animal.

There are endless circumstances, from personal illness to a drastic lifestyle change related to employment, that can force an owner’s hand on the fate of their pet.

In these cases, it’s important for members of the pet owner and advocacy communities to support someone’s efforts in re-homing their pet. That owner may be acting in the most responsible way possible and in the best interest of their pet.

Posting hateful comments online or behaving crudely towards someone in this position can create a toxic environment for those simply seeking assistance in a time of need. Pet owners can be dissuaded from making the responsible decision to give up their pet, perhaps questioning their decision based on the judgment of others.

Parting ways with a pet is not something anyone hopes for when taking their furry friend home for the first time. It’s a decision some pet owners are forced to make out of love for their animal, in recognizing that they cannot provide the best life for their pet due to difficult circumstances. Being a supportive voice in this trying time can make a world of difference to pet owners, and allow for an open conversation on the complex issue of re-homing an animal.