Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


August 22, 2013

No dumping: Abandoned animals ill prepared for life in the wild

Years ago in Huntington, a woman I once dated, Jeann, had to move to a new home. She had a cat that she cared about, but she couldn’t take it with her and she wasn’t sure what to do. After some thought, she asked another college friend of mine, Amanda, to drive her out to the city park so she could drop the cat off.

Well, Amanda had cats of her own, and she was adamantly against this idea. Jeann didn’t want to send her cat to the local animal shelter, but Amanda finally convinced her that letting the cat fend for itself was even worse. I think they eventually found a new home for the feline.

Now Jeann wasn’t a cruel person, but she just didn’t understand how cruel it is to dump off a dog or cat. These animals depend on their owner for everything from food to affection, and suddenly it’s just tossed out into the world. How is it supposed to understand that it’s not wanted anymore?

I’ve seen other instances of this so-called “merciful” act. Years ago when I was working at the Daily Telegraph’s office in Princeton, we heard about an abandoned large, hairy dog somebody dubbed Bigfoot. He was living in the woods near PikeView High School. Like his cryptozoological namesake, Bigfoot was elusive and hard to see, and definitely hard to catch.

Kind-hearted folks left food for him and tried to coax him into their cars, but Bigfoot adamantly refused to get close enough to touch. It seemed like he was waiting for the people who had dumped him to return. He had loyalty his people had failed to show him. He was going to wait until they came back for him.

Finally, a woman who was working with us at the time, Karen, persisted in her quest for Bigfoot. She left him food, talked to him, and eventually won his trust. I still remember the day she ran into the office and yelled, “I caught Bigfoot!”  How many people could say that and really mean it?

She had coaxed him into her car. Poor Bigfoot was a mess of tangled hair, ticks, sticks and other souvenirs of life in the woods. Worst of all, he had a collar embedded in his skin. Nobody had ever changed it.

Visits to a veterinarian and a groomer rehabilitated Bigfoot, and he eventually was taken into a new home. That case had a happy ending, but we keep hearing about other dogs and cats dumped like unwanted property.

Last Sunday, I met another friend of mine, Melody, for breakfast. She told me about a dog that she and some other people found near Princeton; none of them can take it home. This white dog seemed to be part Labrador retriever. She said the dog has a sweet disposition, and it obeys commands like sit and stay. The dog is being fed, but it still needs a home. The current hope is that the dog wandered away from home. With hope, somebody is looking for it.

I own a snake, Alice, and three tarantulas — Nora, Curly and Legs — and I can’t imagine just turning them lose in the wild. Alice is a California King Snake, and the spiders are from South America, so they wouldn’t survive a winter here. Once I have a pet, I feel responsible for it, and I can’t imagine just tossing it out. I know there are times when a pet becomes inconvenient, but there are options other than dumping it.

When a pet is dumped, it becomes a problem and even a danger for other people. I’ve heard accounts of people releasing pet pythons that became too big to handle. Some of these reptiles can weigh up to 200 pounds and get 12 or more feet long. Two boys were killed recently by a python that managed to escape. Such instances are why I have Alice: a king snake usually tops out at four to five feet, and they don’t have venom.

If I cannot keep a pet anymore, I try to sell it or even give it to a pet shop if the owners will accept it. They have a chance of getting a new home. Dogs and cats have a better chance at an animal shelter than being dumped and left to fend on their own. At least they will have care and the possibility of finding a new home.

Dumping dogs and cats is cruel to them and dangerous to humans. They face starvation and a difficult life outdoors; those are things their lives in a home have not prepared them to handle. Rabies is another danger they will face. Raccoons and other wildlife will compete against them for food, and expose them to rabies. Then the homeless animals become another vector for exposing humans to the disease.

I’m hoping that white dog my friend found gets a good home. Thanks to my experience with Bigfoot, I know that story could have a happy ending. I would like to see history repeat itself.

Dogs and cats grant unconditional love, so they deserve the same devotion. Sometimes the alternatives are not good if we have to give them up, but they are better than abandonment. Being dumped means starvation, living in the cold and trying to understand why you’re not wanted anymore.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at

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