We’ve all seen it – or worse, stepped in it – dog waste left behind by irresponsible dog owners. The dog cannot be blamed for it, for it is the human who is responsible for what the dog does, where he does it, and whether it is left behind as a steaming testament to rudeness and irresponsibility. In 2010, according to Consumer Reports, dog poop was listed at #6 on a list of everyday annoyances.
Perhaps you have been unfortunate enough, like myself, to be held responsible for someone else’s mess. My dog is a female, so she squats to urinate. More than once, an ignorant person has seen her urinate and either blatantly told me I should pick up after my dog, or they gave me the look that says it all. This infuriates me beyond words. I can honestly say that I have never left a mess behind. I always carry a bag dispenser and always pick up after my dog, whether it’s in my development, at the park, the beach, or visiting another neighborhood. Sadly, few in my development are as considerate. Dog messes, large and small, can be found scattered over all the grassy areas. Some apartment complex property managers have begun using DNA dog poop testing kits to identify the perpetrators. Not a bad idea.
Some try to argue that wild animals defecate outdoors, on the grass, so it is natural to just leave the dog mess there as well. Nice try, but it’s not the same. You simply can’t compare, say, squirrel waste to dog waste. Then there are those who complain that it’s disgusting to have to pick up poop, even with a plastic bag. Maybe you should’ve thought about that before you got a dog. Would you leave your own bowel movement anywhere but a toilet? If you have a baby and you change her diaper, would you dispose of the dirty diaper by flinging it onto someone’s lawn? That is essentially what you are doing when you leave your dog’s mess behind. Cleaning up after your dog is one of the vital responsibilities involved in pet ownership, along with feeding, exercising, and providing veterinary care.
Then there are weight problems. Over 45% of dogs in America are overweight, and almost 9% are clinically obese. Unlike humans, dogs do not struggle with body image or self-confidence based on their appearance. But just as bring overweight or obese poses greater health risks for humans, the same is true for our pets. According to studies conducted by Purina, overweight pets have a shorter life expectancy by at least 2 years! Dogs that were maintained at a healthy weight lived longer, healthier lives. Health risks to dogs brought on by excess weight include:
•Osteoarthritis and Poor Joint Health
•Insulin Resistance & Type 2 Diabetes
•Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
•Heart & Respiratory Disease
So many of these health problems are preventable! We control the food our dogs consume. We have the capacity to ensure that they receive adequate exercise. Why are so many of us dropping the ball? Our pets are suffering because of our poor choices.
Poor choices are also the reason that a healthy animal is euthanized every two seconds in the United States. 61% of dogs and 75% of cats that end up in shelters are euthanized. Pet overpopulation is becoming an epidemic in this country because of backyard breeders and irresponsible pet owners who simply do not have their animals spayed or neutered. For each human that is born, seven puppies and/or kittens are born. Think about that for a moment. Do you think it is possible to find homes for all those animals? Of course not. Therefore, it is grossly irresponsible to refuse or neglect to have your animal spayed or neutered. This neglect amounts to mass cruelty, as millions of animals that should not even have been born die for no reason except that there is no home for them.
Just as having a child comprises boundless joys and some very difficult but essential responsibilities, pet ownership is very rewarding but there are essential responsibilities involved that may not always be pleasant. But isn’t anything worth having worth working for? Is it really that difficult to commit to and follow through on providing proper care for our pets and be a responsible member of the community while doing it? If we really love our animals as much as we say we do, wouldn’t it just follow, logically, that we will make sure to feed our pets just enough quality food to meet their needs, and ensure that they are exercised sufficiently? Will we clean up after them, not just because it is the responsible and considerate thing to do, but also because in most places it is the law? Will we responsibly make sure our animals are sterilized, regardless of gender, to prevent the birth of unwanted young that may likely end up euthanized? If we love our animals enough, we will.