Misapprehensions and repercussions of letting pets roam outdoors are the same in either country.
Almost seven years ago, one of our neighbours adopted a three month old pup and named him Jack. The lady of the house started out taking good care of the puppy, but within a few months, she found it too difficult to manage him indoors. He was always on the lookout to run outdoors, and when she saw how much he liked to roam outside, she began to let him remain out all day and let him in at night.
A few months later, the dog got very ill and doctors discovered he had cancer. She got him the best treatment, kept him inside until he completely recovered and again unleashed him, assuming the fresh air was good for his health. Over the years, I saw him getting involved in dog fights, narrowly escaping road accidents, catching diseases from other strays, killing and eating birds and again spoiling his health. Finally, after six years, she realized her notion was completely flawed and he had suffered a lot because of her ownership habits. Now he lives inside the house and enjoys guided walks thrice a day.
The above story is just one of my experiences noticing people’s behaviour towards animals, while living in India. I moved to Canada eight months back and my observation is that there is no dearth of animal lovers in either country. But what came as a shock to me was how many Canadians let their cats roam outside. Once a colleague was complaining about how his neighbours let their cat roam and in spite of repeated requests to keep him safe, they paid no heed. It reminded me of my mother’s lengthy conversations with that lady expressing the same concerns.
Unfortunately, people in both countries believe that because they’ve been letting their pets go outside for many years, they think he or she knows the area well and will always come back home safely. But that’s like making an argument that I’ve long been driving my bicycle without a helmet and I’m still alive. Just because you’ve been blessed so far, it doesn’t mean that an unfortunate incident can’t happen in the future.
Besides, it’s scary never to know where your cat goes once set loose; it might get hit by a car, escape (or not escape!) a wildlife attack, kill a bird or animal, drink from a poisoned puddle or get in a fight with another cat. People justify it by saying cats are exhibiting what’s natural to them. If an unleashed dog enters their backyard and kills their cat, will they still use the same logic? Moreover, people spend plenty of money on pets’ grooming and healthy foods, so why then make them vulnerable to injuries and pregnancy risks?
Many people think if they don’t let their pets roam outdoors, their pets will get depressed. I want to remind those people – whether they’re Indian or Canadian – that when a child at a certain age displays stubbornness, parents handle him patiently, refusing to give him what he wants if they consider it to be unsafe. We need to treat our pets similarly: we’re their guardians and it is our duty to act in their best interests.
-By Ashma Bhola
An animal and nature lover. You’ll usually find me volunteering for these causes, listening to spiritual discourses, reading inspiring novels or occasionally writing a blog. I work as an IT Professional.