It's a lifetime commitment; be sure you're ready | As I See It

By Jan Murphy

We have a million reasons to feel fortunate to live here: gorgeous waterways and scenery, beautiful trails, and a wonderful, caring community to name just a few.

The next time you count your San Juan Island blessings, please consider including our island animal shelter, The Animal Protection Society, Friday Harbor.

I’m lucky enough to be an employee of the shelter, so I get to see first-hand the many ways our shelter helps homeless animals and the community as a whole.

Being a small shelter, in a small community affords us opportunities not common in larger shelters that serve cities and counties much larger than ours. Dogs relinquished to our shelter rarely spend more than two or three weeks here before being adopted and cats tend to be adopted within six to eight months. We are able and happy to provide a safe haven for pets when their elderly owners can no longer care for them.

Animals in our care get lots of attention and love, not to mention nutritious food and lots of exercise. The only reason we ever have to euthanize an animal is due to illness.

We are in a unique position to help shelters and private rescue groups from off-island when space permits and we do so often. When helping mainland shelters and rescue groups, I am always struck by how “disposable” pets seem to be for much of the general population.

Thankfully, we don’t see it often here, but larger animal shelters are continually asked to accept animals for a variety of reasons, including the following:

We are moving and we can't take our dog (or cat). (Might you consider moving to a place where you are allowed to keep your pets?)

The dog got bigger than we thought it would. (How big did you think a Labrador Retriever would get?)

We don't have time for her. (Really? I work a 10-hour day and still have time for my three dogs and six cats!)

She's tearing up our yard. (How about bringing her inside, making her a part of your family or taking her for a walk?)

Our cat just had kittens and we can’t keep them. (Failure to spay or neuter your family pet is the most irresponsible thing a pet owner can do. If you aren’t prepared to do so, you should reconsider owning a pet.)

Between 9 and 11 million pets die every year in animal shelters in the U.S. The great tragedy of this is that it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s up to us—those of us who choose to include pets as part of our family, to create a new and better reality for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Pet ownership is truly a privilege and not a right. Please remember when adding a pet to your family that you are making a lifetime commitment to this pet.

While there are legitimate reasons to relinquish a pet to an animal shelter, they are few and far between in my opinion. If you are unable to promise a pet a lifetime of safety, love and well-being—please reconsider getting one.


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