Fall is when many cats and dogs are abandoned in our region. People find a stray cat and befriend it for the summer without understanding how the cat becomes dependent on its human benefactor. Others bow to pressure from children to get a dog and then discover they have added another infant to their family.

The result: animals that are handed over to a shelter. If they find the shelters full, the animals are sometimes abandoned altogether. Even worse, the animals are left out in the wild to fend for themselves.

This is particularly true for cats, because people assume they can take care of themselves. Dr. Erik Masclé of Services vétérinaires Mountainview in West Brome says “It is a myth that cats can survive in the wild.” The reality is many abandoned pets, especially cats, do not even make it to a shelter. It would be far better to euthanize the animal rather than let it slowly starve to death in the wild.

Pet cats and dogs should have tags, or a collar with the owner’s phone number or a microchip, so they can be identified and returned to their owner if they are lost. The reality is almost all pet owners take care of their dogs and cats. Dr. Masclé says 95% of people coming to his clinic neuter their pets.” The problem lies with people who don’t realize that a pet is a living thing not a temporary object.

This being said, the situation has improved in the past few years. SPA animal advocate for our area Carl Girard witnessed fewer cases of abandoned animals. Hammering the message that pets have to be neutered and better tagged is getting through. Mayors and councillors are better informed so municipalities have adopted more severe bylaws.

Getting municipalities together to pool their limited resources to address the issue of abandoned cats and dogs is perhaps the most promising avenue. We encourage our municipalities and our local vets to work together to put an end to this form of animal cruelty.

The problem is with people who don’t think of how that cute kitten or puppy could become a burden. Perhaps the main thing to do is educate people that abandoning animals on the cusp of winter is cruel.