About a year ago, my husband and I adopted Emma, a beautiful eight-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy. She is the light of our life and we love her more than words can express. My husband and I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of Emma. She has truly made us better people and life would be rubbish without her.
A pet dog is entirely dependent on the caretaker. If the caretaker neglects his or her duties to the dog, or decides that the dog is no longer suitable to stay in the household for one reason or another, the dog is destined to be put to sleep or adopted by another family. Unfortunately, in a number of cases, the dog is put to sleep because no one is found to adopt or foster the animal.
Having realized just how neglected pet dogs are in Iceland, not by their caretakers but the authorities, I worry about the state of human compassion.
There are always going to be circumstances when it becomes necessary to part with the family dog for one reason or another, and under those circumstances, it is important to have a home or a shelter where the animal is cared for while a new family is found.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, there are no care facilities to look after a dog in-between homes. Instead, people, often good people, are left with two options: a) find a new home or b) put the dog to sleep. The latter option sickens me to the very core of my being.
How is it that we call ourselves civilized beings, but are utterly unable to take responsibility on the very animals that have been our trusted and loyal companions throughout the history of men?
As a responsible dog owner, I find the notion of treating a household pet as a reversible choice appalling. Once you take in a pet, be it a cat, snake or a dog, you are responsible for the wellbeing of that animal.
The reason I am preoccupied with this issue is because, yet again, I have come across a shared Facebook status from someone desperately searching for a family to take in a dog in need of a new home, this time an eight-month-old puppy.
It’s heartbreaking to think this vivacious and gentle creature is more than likely going to be put to sleep because it’s the only other option to finding a permanent home with a family that’ll welcome her and assume the responsibility, fully knowing what it entails.
As I write this week’s column, my darling Emma is using me as a cushion for a new old shoe she is busily tearing apart. Her nails have on a couple of occasion marked me ever so slightly but I won’t complain until it really stings. She is happy and she makes me feel loved despite the fact that her enthusiasm to tear this poor pair of white Converse shoes is somewhat discomforting to my bare skin.
We have on a number of occasions considered whether to take in one of those poor dogs whose owners can no longer look after them, be it for medical reasons or selfish tendencies.
But the fact is that I can’t. And neither can a number of kind-hearted people who otherwise might. So why make this so hard?
Is it really too much to ask that the state be held accountable for the lives of innocent animals, and provide a loving home for animals in need of adoption?
I know I’d be happy to sponsor such a home in the same way I do with the cat shelter Kattholt. The people there are passionate about the work they do despite the fact that the only home for abandoned cats is in constant need of funding to run the shelter.
No such shelter exists for dogs.
When a dog is found wandering around, lost or abandoned, the owner is found through an electronic number that is given to each dog when registered to a vet clinic. Most families no doubt celebrate the return of their beloved family member, but I’ve heard a different story through other dog owners in my neighborhood.
A dog has been found on several occasions wondering in the vicinity of Skeifan, a commercial area in Reykjavík. Every time the dog is found, he is brought back to his owners, owners I dare say are neglectful of their duties and should carefully consider finding a more suitable home for their four-legged friend.
I’ve also been told about a dog that is never taken out for walks, and receives little to no attention by the young couple whose responsibility it is to look after him.
In my mind, the Icelandic authorities need to make a firm statement to protect pet animals from neglect and unnecessary death. To step in and support people who for a valid reason cannot continue caring for their dog. To punish the very people who neglect their duties and blacklist them from having pets. To make the act of having a dog (and any other pet) a commitment that legally obliges us the caretakers to be responsible. Because we are responsible.
A dog is never the responsibility of children. We the adults are responsible and if we cannot look after the animal that trusts us and loves us with all their heart, then we should be held accountable, at the very least made to do our very best to find it a new home.
To not put an innocent animal to sleep because the child in the family could not look after it as it promised in the beginning. It is irresponsible.
We bare the responsibility and we owe the animals that rely on us to provide for them and nurture them with love.
As a society we should too provide a shelter for animals without a home. It’s just as much our responsibility.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir - [email protected]