Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Saving Sentience: Homeless Animals Need All the Help They Can Get

August 18 is International Homeless Animals Day

In my last essay I informed people that scientists, mostly lab-bound researchers, finally declared that nonhuman animals (animals) are conscious. Duh, I could hear echoing around the world. The very data on which these researchers based their conclusion have been around for ages so it's nice that this small group decided to let the world know what they thought, a conclusion that supported what most others, including numerous researchers, have thought or really known for ages. Included in the group of animals they declared to be conscious beings are "all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses". These animals are capable or experiencing a wide array of emotions ranging from joy and pleasure to grief, sadness, and misery. 

Dogs, cats, and other mammals who are also favored companion animals (aka pets) often find themselves homeless. Indeed, millions of animals who also are companion animals are homeless. While it's difficult to know just how many homeless animals there are, it's been estimated by the ASPCA that "Approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Stray animals also need to be taken into account. It's impossible to know how many stray dogs and cats there are in the United States but it's been estimated there may be as many as 70 million stray cats. I've been told by more than one person that about 75% of all dogs in the world are stray or homeless. I haven't been able to verify this number but even if it were halved it would be a large and unacceptab;e number. In the UK alone more than 120,000 stray dogs were picked up over a recent 12 month period with more than 7500 having to be "put down". The number is on the rise. In Detroit, Michigan there are at least 50,000 stray dogs (additional data can be found here). The numbers are staggering and sickening and we can do something about this horrible situation. 

Clearly, there's a major problem with homeless/stray animals worldwide. Many people are more concerned with dogs and cats who find themselves without a safe home in which to live and thrive but of course other animals including hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, and a wide variety of birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians are also homeless. These are all conscious beings who care about what happens to them and they deserve much better care. 

I just received a notice from the group called Advancing the Interests of Animals (from which the teaser image is taken) that August 18, 2012 is International Homeless Animals Day. They list a number of ways we can help these homeless individuals. These include: 

-- Adopt Don't Buy. Animals in shelters and at rescue groups are waiting for you to give them a loving home! Pet store and online animals are usually sick and come from large and awful commercial breeding facilities. Don't support this cruelty.

-- Spay/neuter your companion animal(s) and encourage others to do the same!

-- Donate or volunteer at your local animal shelter or rescue group(s).

-- Foster. Become a foster parent to a dog or cat and help find them their forever home.

-- Help strays in your community! Carry food/water and a leash and adjustable collar in your car.

-- Educate yourself about homeless animals and all the ways you can alleviate their suffering. Understand the problems with dog/cat overpopulation and what you can do to help.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of these needy beings and help to make their lives far better than they are. Saving sentience is really easy to do and I encourage everyone to do what they can. This coming Saturday is a perfect day to begin, or even sooner. 

 

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

more...

Subscribe to Animal Emotions

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.