Thinking about buying a holiday pet? The unspoken truth many parents don’t tell their children.

People who work at shelters do so because they love animals, want to take care of them and find them new homes, not to euthanize them.

One day while reading the newspaper, I came across comments from people who were outraged about an article about local animal shelters euthanizing healthy animals because of insufficient funding and too few families that were willing to adopt a rescue animal.  They wondered “how could workers who “put animals to sleep” live with themselves?”

I was working as a local television correspondent at the time and had the opportunity to ask an animal shelter worker about this very touchy subject. 

While most of her work was extremely gratifying, the worst aspect of her job she and her co-workers dreaded, was dealing with unwanted “holiday gift pets” in the New Year.

That is when holiday pets end up at the shelter. Their prognosis was seldom good. 

In the early months of the New Year, parents – without their children in tow - would show up with a kitten or puppy and explain that “things didn’t work out” with the pet and that the family wanted to donate the pet for adoption.

The pet would be handed over, the parents would leave, pleased that they had solved their problem, and the future of the animal was left in the hands of the animal shelter workers.

People who work at shelters do so because they love animals, want to take care of them and find them new homes.  The worker explained, “I did not get into this line of work to euthanize animals.”  She then broke down crying, and several of her colleagues within earshot came over to comfort her.

I thought back to a childhood friend of mine whose parents bought a puppy for him over the holidays, and then, when they discovered he was uninterested and incapable of taking care of the pet, they brought it to the local shelter.  When he later asked them where the dog was, they told him “Don’t worry.  We took him to a nice farm where he will be happy.” 

There was no farm. Only a cage, and more likely than not, a sad ending to the story.

I then asked the shelter worker if she and her colleagues would like to participate in a story about this for the evening news to raise public awareness about buying pets without giving it careful thought.  Yes, they did.

Two weeks later, a cameraman and I took footage in the shelter of the heartbreaking faces of animals looking through the cage bars and a quote in the lobby to the effect that the quality of a society’s mercy can be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members.

Then, we set up the tripod for footage that was very difficult to watch:  A beautiful, good-natured dog was lying on a table about to be euthanized because there was no room, nobody had adopted him and he’d been there “too long.”

The shelter’s workers decided to put the dog to sleep in a “humane” way  for the camera – with an intravenous injection – not the typical way it is done.

I stood at the door and turned my head away as the dog’s breathing slowed and one of its paws twitched ever so slightly before it went to sleep forever.

We edited the story during what would have been our lunch period.  Neither of us could eat. 

Then came an important decision: do we show the animal being put down, and if so, how do we handle it?

I decided not to sugar-coat the issue.  We showed the final 20 seconds of the procedure from the doorway of the room with the goal of letting parents see what often happens when an unwanted pet is brought to a shelter.  No farm like they might have told their kids. 

I never watched the story go to air.  It wasn’t necessary.

I received two humane society journalism awards for the story, called “Don’t Blame the Caregivers.”   I also received many angry letters – not from animal advocates, but from parents who were horrified that I’d expose children to that sort of imagery.  This was back in the late 1980s when television was not as bold as it is now.

As unpleasant as it was, the message about holiday pets had been delivered.

If it saved the life of one animal, it was worth it.  If it made one family think twice about buying a pet for the holidays without a serious discussion, then it was worth it.  If this story you are reading raises awareness about the folly of buying a holiday pet, it is worth it.

If you do decide with your family to buy and take care of a pet, consider adopting one from a rescue shelter.  It will make a happy ending to the story.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

COSMO P December 09, 2012 at 02:30 PM
So what you are saying Mr Brown you condone the massive spending and mismanagement of the present administration on the state and federal levels. I don't. And with that care to answer this simple question. This state has a balanced budget amendment. Did anyone tell Mr Malloy. With that they are going to have their paws in our pockets. You fail to mention Malloy and he band of tax and spend democrats agreed to a no layoff clause. So where will they get the money Mr Brown? I know it was Rell's fault. That's right pointing paws is their answer as usual.
RONALD M GOLDWYN December 09, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Back to acquiring a pet. My wife and I acquired our first dog after my first child was born. It was acquired at our local but famous dog shelter on Long Island. Soon thereafter we learned that we made the wrong selection. The dog was wrong to be with an infant. So we sold it to another loving family. After that first mistake we did our research and studied which breeds are best with children. The answer was #1 the Dachshund and #2 the Shetland Sheepdog. This time we searched for an AKC registered kennel and found a purebred puppy. We showed her in an AKC puppy class show but didn't win any ribbons. We then trained he in obedience and here we were successful. She was trained never to cross the sidewalk on our homes corner property. Since she was not allowed to cross the sidewalk, she didn't permit our two children to do so either. We didn't train her to do this, it was just the herding instinct bred into her. Then we created an AKC Kennel for Shetland Sheepdogs and our dogs produce two litters. When our children became adults we took up sailing and ended up with a 52' yacht. But what dog should we get for life aboard a boat. This time it was an English Cocker Spaniel.. This time we bought a square yard of astro-turf and placed it on the bow deck (up foward) and taught the dog to do his thing on it. This area was called our Poop Deck. and contained a wash-down hose for cleanup. Its name was "Lord Nelson" as appropriate for an English sea dog.
Will Wilkin December 09, 2012 at 05:38 PM
If I had a pony, I'd ride him on my boat....
sebastian dangerfield December 09, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Michael brown, Do you even understand your point? Let's put it in terms that you can get mad about, ok? A CEO makes 20 mio a year. But pays 3 million in taxes, and is found to have underpaid by 20,000. .06% of his taxes. But someone like you, most likely will say " wow--a guy with all that money, cant even pay what he owes!! Scumbag." Here is what I say about Malloy: He has 20 bio to spend and needs to spend 20.45? Is it that tough to actually limit spending to only 20 bio? The budget in 2011 was 19.3 and in 2012 its 20.3 billion. Micheal, if you had any objectivity, maybe you could say " in a retracting economy, to hike 1 billion, and be 450 mill behind, is not good. Missing by 2.2 % is still missing by 450 million. These guys are blaming revenue shortfalls, but they increased spending by 1 billion . If you are the least bit smart --you should simpy say 'yeah, they are not properly representing the problem, and are being irresponsible. "
Paul Alexander December 09, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Thank you Lyle...
Gayle December 09, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Maybe the Patch could post pics of animals in the Milford shelter available for adoption.
Michael Brown December 09, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Yes. I understand my point. A state budget is made with a projection of revenues and expenditures. The revenue projections were obviously little too rosy and the expenditures were higher than expected. 2.2% over budgeted seems to be acceptable too me. If I were to criticize the state government (current or past) at all, it would be to say that there is seldom a surplus and often a deficit. Borrowing and cuts in services are usually the remedy - a balanced account is mandated by State constitution. As for your statement @Ryen, you are referring to Rell's prior year shortfall. And in the year prior to that, Rell had a $1 billion shortfall.
sebastian dangerfield December 10, 2012 at 01:15 AM
nah micheal , you dont. A 450 million shortfall, which was 3 weeks ago , a 60 milion dollar shortfall, which was 7 months ago 1.1 bio dollar surplus, now projects to be a 1.9 bio dollar 2 year shortfall. And growing. At what point do you get concerned? You need to understand the issue better. At this point it has flipped 3 bio dollars --requiring a 1.9 bio plan to get it back in order. After you raise taxes by 2.6 bio dollars , essentially this result, is saying you ended up needing to duplicate the raises already. And this all against the backdrop of your messiah telling us that the economy was improving. Hmm What happens when things get bad Mike? How about facing up to reality--higher taxes, in the Democrat world , means more money to spend to get reelected. Not an effort to balance anything.
LAM December 10, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Sorry Mr. Brown nice try, but as we all know, Rell's budgets were what the Democratic veto proof majorities saddled her with. Rell should have vetoed every budget and forced the Democrats to override her vetos. The Democrats owned the budget then and now, it's theirs and I hope they gag on it. By the way how about the projected (by Malloy's budget director) of 2014's 1.1 billion dollar shortfall and 2015's 900 million shortfall on top of that? Truthfully they will be much worse depending on what Washington does on the Federal Level.
Ryen December 10, 2012 at 08:22 AM
@ Michael Go up and read your own comment! You claim that Jodi Rell left Dannel Malloy with almost a $4 BILLION deficit. Are you saying that you stand by that figure?? Now you are changing it to "almost $1 BILLION"????? And who proposes the budgets, Michael?? The governor or the legislature?? Who is the one bottom line responsible?? I will give you a big HINT: it is NOT the governor. Nor is the governor responsible for "the economy". The bloated GOVERNMENT and the misplaced priorities and the WELFARE state and the bloated government and teacher contracts and education budgets are responsible for our deficit--and it goes back a ways. Your attempt to trash Jodi Rell does not hold any water whatsoever, Michael. ;)
Michael Brown December 10, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Didn't change my numbers. Re-read what I wrote. $3.67 billion was the number in February 2011, $500 million at the beginning of 2010, and $1 billion on 2009.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau News December 10, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Many thanks for your comments, but let's please try to keep in mind, this isn't about politics, or property laws. It is about being humane. I would hope that is something that people of all political stripes, nationalities and beliefs can embrace.
Wondering December 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The omniopinionated Steve DeVaux brought up the legal and political aspect.
JWolf December 10, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Ronald it must be nice that you are so wealthy that you can afford all this. Perhaps you can rub it in a bit more for those who must work a full time and a part time job to feed their family. Perhaps even those who are unemployed and cant find work due to the economy. I for one am happy that you are so wealthy that you can rub my face in it when I live paycheck to paycheck like most americans and people in the area. Bravo Sir you win the Show Off award of the week.
RONALD M GOLDWYN December 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Mr Wolfe, I'm sorry that you disrespect those who worked and accumulated wealth. I thought that was the American way of life. As for myself, I was forced to spend my savings to protect my children and now live on my Social Security check. But this doesn't mean that I cannot contribute my time and labor to organizations that strive to make Milford a better place to live. Being retired (medical reasons) does not mean that I make no contribution as some who come home from work and lock themselves in until that time when they go to work again. Finally, This thread was about getting a pet during this holiday season and I would hope you would stick to that subject.
RONALD M GOLDWYN December 10, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Ed P, A lump of coal is all that you will get for the holiday. I've never read a positive thought from one of your postings. You complain if you read life experiences from others as if you don't have the ability to just delete it. But you read what I say and complain that you did. I'm sorry you live such a sad life. Mine is filled with nice events along with some of the sad. I only hope you can enjoy this holiday season in good health. P.S. Ronnie is the feminine form of Ronald, and I would hope you address me properly. Second I'm not an "esquire" but thank-you for thinking I am, it is still an honorable title.
LAM December 11, 2012 at 03:21 AM
@Ron: Never apologize for your life or your wealth. I disagree with some of your opinions to be sure, but I would never begrudge yourself or anyone else who has become well off through hard and honest work.
sebastian dangerfield December 11, 2012 at 07:24 AM
At one point, the government estimated that it would never recover all of the bailout money, but as AIG restructured and returned to viability, it was able to repay the entire rescue fund plus generate a profit for U.S. taxpayers Announced today. Wow So there you have it..the most bizarre thing ever in politics. After all the hoopla and anger that eminated from the left on these bailouts--the only company that has not paid the money back, and has not returned a profit to taxpayer is ========General Motors. That much hailed 'successful bailout" we heard so much about over the last 5 months. So we make on the banks and Aig-and lose on GM big time--and guess what? the msnbc watching democrats, crazily still are mad at the guys who paid the money back, and are hailing as champions -the guys who will cost taxpayers, when all is said and done 200 bio dollars. is this lunacy or what? just goes to show you how much it helps to have the media in your back pocket. At some point though, one would expect the media to get a little angry at where their money is going . is it really a great idea to just hand your hard earned money over to union thugs and their democrat buddies who pretend to be for the poor but in fact, are just for getting re-elected. hail oh-hail unions. where is obama? negotiating for the 'middle class' for the 98%? Nope he is in michigan trying to help unions retain their mafia like stronghold.
COSMO P December 11, 2012 at 11:05 AM
What does this say. It says that the $80 billion auto bailout that is now touted by the anointed Obama was little more than a payout to Big Labor one that came at the expense of non union workers. (EXAMPLE DELPHI A GM SUBSIDIARY) That is the truth that should be told without another cover up. But the democrats just do what they do best lie and cover up the facts.
Howard Schwartz December 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I'd like to make a correction - the post was not on behalf of the company where I worked. It was a personal post. I accidentally responded while logged in for work. Howard Schwartz
LuLu Lamperelli December 11, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Reminder from a reader who prefers to read posts related to the ORIGINAL STORY SUBJECT : Thinking about buying a holiday pet? The unspoken truth many parents don’t tell their children. Have the common decency to spare the readers your political hangups!
SuperDave December 11, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Being an animal lover, which includes dogs, I always found that people get dogs as a sign that they can actually own one. An acquaintence once imported a very expensive German Sheperd. She was parading around with pictures like it was her baby. So where was the dog all day? In some kind of tiny cage inside the house while everyone was a work. So I am thinking, why do you have a dog if you do not have the time and space for a dog? I would love a dog, but I know I cannot provide the time and space necessary for the animal to live a decent life. So I will wait until I am retired, and in the meantime do battle with my Siamese cats! But this article is much worse. Getting a pet of any kind is not like getting a new video game. Parents need to be more responsible than that.
Cheryl Craig Smith December 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Hi Bobby, either Milford Animal Control or Stratford Animal Control.
sebastian dangerfield December 11, 2012 at 09:05 PM
ohhh i love cats!!!
Ryen December 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I agree with you--but bring it to the person who first started the cross-over topic--not me, nor some others. If you read the thread, you can see how it got off topic. So: 1. There is free press. 2. There is free speech. 3. Debate should be encouraged. 4. I agree that debate on an article should remain focused on that article. 5. But if you re-read number one and number two--and realize this is an internet forum--you simply cannot enforce that LuLu. I feel for you, but maybe you can use internet controls or settings--what you are actually doing is censorship and telling others how to think and act--not enforceable--not on the internet at least. That is a great drawback to debate on the internet--not an excuse, just a fact.
Ryen December 12, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Excellent point! My only caveat to what you say is that dogs and cats are not really any different than sheep, pigs, goats and horses. Those animals are kept in stalls, stables and crates also--sometimes half a day or for days at a time. It is a LITTLE extreme to claim that because some one works all day they cannot have a pet. Although the ideal is nice...
Ryen December 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM
@ Michael P: You re-read what you wrote--so if you did, than HOW IN THE WORLD IS THE BUDGET DEFICIT in 2011 $4 BILLION dollars and "left by Jodi Rell"--you never answered ONE SINGLE specific criticism or question about your point???? Stop the baloney please! I will say it again: 1. First, the deficit is not the governor's responsibility or within their power--at BEST they are simply one player amongst MANY. 2. Jodi Rell NEVER "left Dannel Malloy a $4 BILLION deficit"--that is a LIE if you stand by it. 3. Your evasive comments when questioned show that you are not a factual or a serious debater. 4. The deficit did not go from $400 million to $4 BILLION in 3 or 4 or 5 months. You are a liar if you claim that....
MAC December 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Did you not know that you can actually REMOVE your own posts, which people often do (sometimes to correct their own poor grammar, factual errors, overly emotional responses etc.)? If you copy your post before deleting it, then you can repost under the screen name you intended, make edits or whatever. ;0
Lynne Fowler December 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Tears for those not saved.
Valerie Juleson, MSW December 17, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I'm wondering if the schools need to each have a dog...maybe even more then one school dog - You might see if the town could get the "retired" army trained dogs. The individuals who are deranged would think twice about entering a school with a trained protection dog wandering the halls- and I know it will make the families and children feel and be safer. Many of the protection trained dogs love children and would have taken out any threat to those children. These dogs are currently being used for low anxiety producing protection in subways-airports etc. Yes it would cause some need to do a work-around for alergic children but in this case that work around would be worth it. Valerie Juleson


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