The human race’s relationship with dogs and cats goes back thousands of years and, as the owner of two of man’s best friends, I can assure you of their importance as companions, carers and, as in our house, fully-fledged family members. They enrich our lives by showing us unconditional love, making us laugh and reducing our health problems by getting us outdoors and active. So why do some people continue to treat them like an expendable commodity?
Despite numerous campaigns by rescue charities to press the message that a dog or cat is not a suitable gift at any time of year, unwanted pets continue to be discarded across our city.
The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home at Portobello reported that in 2015, more than 3700 dogs and cats came through their care, with approximately 100 animals on site at any one time.
Receiving no government or lottery funding, they are desperate for donations to fund the care of their residents, and to encourage potential pet owners to “adopt, not shop”.
Poor decision-making over Christmas gifts is certainly a factor in Edinburgh’s increasing strays and surrender cases, with many new owners discovering that taking on a dog or cat is a life-changing commitment. It is estimated that a dog can cost up to £30,000 in its lifetime, which includes vet bills, insurance, walking services, food and holiday boarding.
Many dogs can’t be left on their own for a full working day, so anyone thinking of taking one on should seriously consider their lifestyle, and weigh up the many benefits of having a pet against the impact it might have on their day-to-day life. The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home provides new owners with support and advice on overcoming these potential barriers.
January is undoubtedly a busy time for the Edinburgh rescues, but there is a bigger story at play behind our unwanted cats and dogs, which makes this more than a seasonal issue.
Recently, the BBC programme Watchdog highlighted the poor treatment and illnesses that many designer pups and kittens receive. They are asking us to be vigilant in reporting these dealers.
Additionally, the plight of Edinburgh’s animals is intrinsically linked with that of the most vulnerable people in our community. Alcoholism, domestic abuse, illness, dementia and homelessness are all issues that the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home sees on a daily basis, and in this way, it provides a vital community service by taking on the pets that can no longer be cared for by their owners.
Sadly, Edinburgh will not see an end to animal strays and surrenders, so any help we can all offer to support the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home would be gratefully received.
Councillor Frank Ross is Edinburgh City Council’s depute leader and SNP Group leader