I wrote about this topic a few years ago and this occasion seems like a good reason to recycle that old post (it’s environmentally friendly!):
A recent case of evil animal cruelty got me to thinking a little about a somewhat related topic: unwanted animals.
Growing up in a rural area of East Texas, we frequently would have dogs or cats show up at our house after their owners had dumped them nearby. Some people have the mistaken idea that releasing an animal in the country is somehow better for them than taking them to a shelter or otherwise taking responsibility for them. In case anyone is still operating under this delusion, I’d like to give a few details of the reality of life for an abandoned animal in the country. They don’t end up living a life of luxury with Farmer Brown or Rancher Joe. On rare occasions, an animal may make its way into someone’s home (like the old lady that used to live across the road who named her dog “Donor,” hence the title of this post, or my own dog, Boots.). But this is the exception, since none of us have room for all the animals that show up. Generally, it’s a nasty, brutish, and all too often, short, life.
The first hazard to Fluffy, after being dropped, terrified, on the road, is the road itself, especially the nearby highway. We would often see dead cats and dogs along the road that were unfamiliar to us. When you consider an animal that has lived inside or in someone’s yard all its life, it’s easy to see why it wouldn’t understand the dangers of roads.
Provided that Fluffy manages to avoid being pancaked on the highway, he will likely show up at someone’s nearby house. However, people need to know that there is no organized animal control that people in the country can call to remove stray animals. To get an idea of the problem, take a look at this post from Petville.com (in fact, this is only a couple of miles up the road from where I grew up). Generally, there will be a county humane society, but the animal has to be caught and taken to them. People out in the country often have to take care of things themselves, and given the lack of availability of animal control, this is no exception. We were the nice ones in the area, in that we’d generally just try to run stray animals off the property. My mother’s dog was good at this, as she was genially territorial (i.e. she could be persuaded, on occasion, to put up with another dog). Any animals that tried to stick around despite my mother’s dog were subject to being shot at with a BB-gun (only one or two pumps, though, as the intent was to scare them away, rather than to cause injuries).
However, our neighbors were not so kind. Any stray dogs found on their property were subject to being shot. This was mostly defensive, since dogs (especially hungry, desperate ones) will often kill chickens and ducks. In the country, any time livestock is subject to predation, you can expect the landowner to take decisive action against the predator. They don’t have time to fuss around with traps or drive 30 miles to take the animal to the humane society (or for that matter to take the risk that the animal they’re trying to catch is rabid).
So, if Fluffy survived the highway, and learned to stay away from livestock, and avoided getting shot (and buried behind a barn somewhere), he’s home free, right?
Not exactly. Out there in East Texas we have wolves, coyotes, bobcats, rattle snakes, copperheads, and water moccasins (cottonmouth). I’ve personally seen rattlers (nearly stepped on one) and have had to shoot water moccasins. I’ve heard the wolves at night. Sometimes they would come right up to our front porch. Other times we’d hear them and discover they’d been into the watermelons the next morning. There is also rumored to be an occasional cougar (or some other similar big cat). I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard something screaming at night that’s hard to describe, but that I’ve been told is their call. Oh, yeah, don’t forget the occasional rabid skunk or raccoon. If Fluffy is lucky enough to avoid being attacked and/or eaten, there’s always rabies… And if I see a rabid animal, it’s getting shot. Period. End of discussion.
It seems to me that someone who truly cared about little Fluffy wouldn’t have abandoned him in the country. It’s a fairly simple matter to just go ahead and take him to the shelter or find someone else to take him. There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t care for him, or that you can’t stand him chewing on the furniture anymore. In fact, that’s the adult way: you admit your responsibility and take action to see that the animal is properly cared for. Dumping an animal in the country is for pathetic cowards.