Looking for stray dogs at a derelict shipyard in Algarve, Portugal, we passed a 5 metres-high pile of multicoloured wreckage like a wheel-house, a stern, benches, ripped canvas and a lot of panelling and timber. On this dump we identified three living dogs, so we stopped and got out of the car to feed them. At our presence, the colours and shape of the dump changed as it came alive and twenty abandoned dogs came down to meet us.
At that moment, we realized that we were looking at “live waste”.
As domestic animals tend to stay with their owners, how do they turn into strays? Why are they chosen and why are they dumped?
Puppies are bought as toys for children and discarded when they don’t react like toys: they bite when they are lifted by one ear, urinate, bark, collect fleas, get sick or simply grow “too large”. Pedigrees are bought and dumped on the wave of trends; watching the shelter population the huskies are clearly “out” in Portugal, where they should not have been in the first place because of their thick coat. As sterilisation is too expensive, or is a religious taboo, the subsequent litters are killed or dumped in waste bins.
Hunters keep one bitch for breeding, select one pup from the litter and dump the rest together with their other “dysfunctional” dogs. If the owner moves house, or if the animal becomes diseased, handicapped or old; these are seen as other reasons to abandon a pet.
Generally dogs are sterilised by responsible, caring owners. Abandoned dogs however, are not sterilised and breed new generations of strays. In all these causes of the stray phenomenon, we cannot find one reason to blame the dogs who were brought into being by humans in the first place.
Live waste is the sole product of ignorant and cruel human behaviour towards our own domestic animals. Then how is it possible that no political or social responsibility is taken for our singular human shortcomings? We note that our civilisation has perfectly organised the funding and processing of our household garbage. We also note with sadness that our live waste is our blind spot. There is no policy, let alone budget to repair the misery we inflict on our domestic companions.
Why are there always budgets to kill strays but none for their treatment and care? Why has the enforcement of animal protection legislation – if any – rock bottom priority? Why is the so-called animal welfare legislation based on pure human economic and public health interests, with total disregard for the welfare of the animals as such?
There is a time to think and a time to act!