Published: Sunday, 14 November 2011
THE BIG APPLE OF DOGS
Dogs. We love them, don’t we? As a matter of fact, there are 1.6 million dogs only in New York. In a city quite infamous for the small size of its apartments, it seems a pure act of love to have so many people willing to share their shoebox-homes with the so called ‘man’s best friend’. Almost 30% of New Yorkers are single and many choose a pet instead of a person to share their lives with. They invest heavily in the happiness of their dogs: millions of dollars in dog food, in pet care salons, grooming or healthcare. But, if we had to ask dogs about their quality of life, what would they say?
Even the luckiest ones, those whose owner can afford a dog walker, spend most of their days alone indoors. There are only 130 dog runs in the five New York boroughs, which means 10.769 dogs per park. In other words, the space where they can actually play it mimics the size of city apartments. Of course, they could run for real in bigger parks off leash, but only before 9am in the morning and after 9pm. Unfortunately, giving the long working days of New Yorkers and the speed of their lives, it is quite unlikely that pet owners take their dogs for real runs, unless they live next door to one of those parks with an off leash policy. Going around the block is most likely their routine on weekdays. If they are lucky they enjoy life a bit more on weekends, when their owners have spare time for them.
If that would be the only sacrifice they endure to be loved by us, many would say it’s not too bad. But, what happens when singles marry, when families move to a non-pets allowed apartment, when the little puppy grows into a 150lb animal that takes away most of the space in the apartment or when our dear pets starts having babies, 5 or 6 at the time? For many owners the solution is simple: we take our pets to shelters. That’s when their real nightmare starts. According to a study by Cornell University 11 million dogs enter shelters every year in the US, and five million of those get euthanized in a matter of weeks because of shelters overpopulation. “The most common approach is to work on the supply side of the market by encouraging, or even requiring, the neutering and spaying of pets” says that study about how governments face the problem.
Old pets relinquished by their owners are euthanized, while pure breed puppies are sold for expensive prices, grow big, and them or they babies end up in shelters, feeding a never ending circle of death. To change such a landscape people has to be conscious of what it means to buy a dog as opposite as adopting one from a shelter. The lives of both dogs –the adopted one or the purchased one- could change dramatically if owners would think twice before making their choices. Giving the overpopulation of pets in our country, cities should also ensure that their pets have enough green spaces to have a real dog life and not be forced to be dog-sofas. Overpopulation is a problem that affects humans and dogs alike but dogs cannot solve their problem. Humans, at least, could improve the lives of their best friend.