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Writer Sends Away 4 Dogs in 4 Years: A Veterinarian’s Perspective

Posted September 02, 2015 in A Vet's Life

White dog on a bed

A columnist for the U.K.’s Daily Mail recently shared her purchase and subsequent abandonment of four dogs in a four-year period. In a posting on, Shona Sibary, writes, “The minute they become too much trouble — which they always do — I fall out of love and start advertising them in the classifieds section of our local newspaper.” This makes me outrageously sad.

As a practicing veterinarian for the past 23 years, I’ve unfortunately seen plenty of this kind of thinking. People get a puppy, love it for a few months, then dump it when things turn tricky. What upsets me most about this story is how brazenly Sibary writes about giving away these living, loving creatures. She writes on, “So where, today, are all these four-legged friends I promised a ‘for ever home’ to? I’m ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea.”

Sibary isn’t alone, but by focusing our attention on why this is a problem, we can help prevent this scenario from being repeated millions of times each year in the U.S. and U.K. A big problem with this kind of thinking is the failure to accept personal accountability for relinquishing pets. Sibary spends most of her 2,300 words defining the shortcomings and faults of the dogs (“Maybe one that is less bouncy, less barky, less inclined to moult everywhere. And so the new search begins and I cannot rest until I have found a replacement puppy to lie adoringly at my feet"), when all they really needed was commitment and compassion. 

Why do most dogs end up in shelters?
Most animals end up in animal shelters for the crimes of peeing or pooping in the house, barking, chewing, scratching, or, as Sibary puts it, “… the moment things get complicated and they develop a problem, I don’t covet a dog-free existence like any other sane person might. Instead, I start wondering if there is another, more suitable dog out there.” In other words, if you get a dud-dog, try another one. It’s not me; it’s the dog. It is this sentiment, in my opinion, that leads to millions of animals being senselessly euthanized: If a pet becomes too much trouble, swap it out until you get one that works.

How can we keep more dogs out of shelters?
The truth is most dogs and cats will work just fine if the owner is willing to work with them. The real problem is when we demand instant-gratification with minimal participation, prefer pre-packaged perfection delivered to our door, and spend more time researching return policies than learning new skills or solving problems. It’s no wonder we would then have rampant relationship problems. Living beings aren’t shrink-wrapped in a factory with strict quality control measures and reset buttons. Individual living beings require work.

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Ernie has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a well-known veterinarian, media personality and author. He is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer:

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.