The tragedy of the wildfires in Greece this summer were the deadliest the country has seen in more than a decade, and had a huge impact on the public that rushed to help.
Apart from the many mistakes that were made by self proclaimed rescuers that visited and revisited the affected areas, trying to offer help that sometimes was not necessary, there are concerns about the impulsive adoptions that are taking place, as people shocked by the disaster rush to offer a home to one of the animal survivors, without giving it much thought.
Apart from that, there have been cases of pet animals that were rescued and given off to foster homes, that are now being claimed by their owners, who can’t track them down.
“In recent days, and in view of the dramatic events of the fires in Attica, there has been an emotional and unprecedented response and mobilisation of people to offer help and voluntary work to the victims of the disaster, both humans and animals.
In the same context, a truly rare response was materialised to find foster homes and adoptions. Despite this gesture of solidarity and goodwill, we feel it’s necessary to focus on the second part of this response, namely adoptions.
The adoption of a stray animal is two things: first of all an act of love, and then a act of responsibility. The love part is almost self-evident and we all understand it. The part of responsibility, however, is far more complex.
Adopting an animal must be a conscious decision. Someone will adopt an animal and have it in his home for the rest of his life. They must adopt it after having thoroughly examined every aspect of cohabitation with an animal under the same roof. That is, you do not first adopt a dog and then discover that the dog needs a walk at least twice a day. Neither can you adopt a cat and afterwards find out that you need to clean the litter box on a daily basis.
Of course these are not even problems, but just a part of the animal’s everyday life. Another part is that the animal will need care and periodical visits to the vet, just like a human might need medical attention. Also an animal will gradually grow old. Much faster than humans. And at some point the dog will need their human more than ever.
Adoption is therefore a responsibility and commitment both on a daily and a long-term basis. It is very important that someone who decides to adopt an animal has realised these two facts. Then both human and their pet will spend a long and quality life together with unforgettable moments.
But what is not the adoption of an animal? It’s definitely not a decision that resulted from an impulse, a momentary emotion, or even worse … a temporary passing trend. In this case, the results will be devastating first and foremost for the animal.
Adoption cannot be the result of temporary or impulsive emotions such as pity and mercy. These lead to so-called “pity adoptions,” and in fact they are adoptions where young guardians do not really love his animal but just … tolerate it in order to feel good with what they see as a benevolent act or a few selfies for their circle of friends and family.
You do not adopt an animal because you feel sorry for it. You adopt it because you want to share a home and love for a life together, by understanding in advance the particularities that living with an animal can include.
The trend of mass support to the animals that were fire victims has been unprecedented. The will of many of our fellow citizens to save one of them by adoption is heartwarming. However, it must be pointed out in every possible way that, if this is done in the wrong way and with the wrong motivation, the result will be contrary to the desired one.
We will see animals being returned (if they are lucky), abandoned (if they are not) or eventually ending up staying in a house or outside it with people that don’t really care and love them but rather simply tolerate them.
It is therefore necessary that the conditions of an adoption are not relaxed due to the extraordinary special circumstances of the recent events. This goes for both the person who gives the animal (either a volunteer or an association) and the one who adopts it.
Practically this means:
1) We still explain with both patience and understanding what it means to adopt an animal and to live long-term with one.
2) We clarify that we adopt the animal not because we saw something touching on TV but because we actually want a pet in our home to be a companion for a lifetime.
3) We insist on the typical (but in practice essential) part of the process, ie placing a microchip on the animal and also make sure that the chip is registered to the new guardian.
4) We check the conditions in which the animal will live.
5) We give the animal only with an adoption contract and … through the bottoms of our hearts wish the new guardians to have a good life with their new four-legged friend!”
Text written by Alexis Mantzoros
The dog in the header image was rescued on July 26th and is in foster care. Photo by Animedia.
The Penny Marathon is accepting donations for the victims of the fires, with a long term strategy, aiming to keep providing help to the survivors after the public and media interest subsides. You can donate here. Visit the Penny Marathon facebook page here.