As most of you might know based on my Facebook pictures and excessive instragramming, I spent the past week traveling around Spain and Morocco. Before I write a blog post telling you all about the cool things I saw and experienced, I feel strongly that it is important to address some of the animal welfare issues I witnessed. It would be unfair to merge the blogs and it would be unfair to not address it at all.
I have seen a lot of small things that strike my nerves simply in Wales alone, and I saw even more as I did my Easter break Europe trip. Before I go into Africa and Spain I’ll just touch on the earlier travels. I have seen an alarming amount of intact male dogs and females who have clearly had multiple litters in every country I have been in from Wales to Italy. A large number of dogs are let out off leash, so I would imagine there is a lot of unwanted breeding going on. I am also currently in an animal breeding class and my professor talks as though everyone who owns a dog is breeding their dogs. I am honestly not sure if having an intact dog is just the culture here, but I am sure that a lack of education plays a huge role in the fact.
I do not want to make it sound like the United States is perfect and Europe/UK/ ect. have all the issues. There is a ton of work that our own country must do before we can even start helping other countries who have it even worse in some cases. I just want to raise some awareness to anyone reading.
Here are some fun facts: In the Unites States ALONE, 6-8 million animals enter shelters each year and approximately 3-4 million of them are euthanized each year due to over crowding/population. The best way to deal with the population issues is spaying and neutering your pets. Neutered males live approximately 18% longer than intact males and females live approximately 23% longer! WOW imagine more time with your pet because you were a responsible owner!! This is mainly due to the fact that your pet is no longer at risk for a large variety of reproductive cancers and uterine infections. Another reason people don’t neuter their males is because they think it is taking away the dogs “man-hood” and he won’t be as tough. In reality, your dog is still going to have the same personality traits either way, and obedience/loyalty ect. won’t be affected. What will change is that your dog will do a lot less territorial marking and will be generally less aggressive which should be looked at as a good thing. Lastly, people keep their pets intact to breed them for an extra buck. First of all, there are much better ways to make money. Second of all, even if you think you’re being a responsible breeder, there is a good chance the people you adopt out to will fix their pets and be responsible owners as well. Unless you are an accredited pure bred breeder, stop the back yard breeding. In the States we are lucky enough to have access to facilities to fix our pets. There are even community clinics in our country so that people with financial issues can still take care of their pets properly. The biggest key in our country is a culture shift and education. It is so important to help get animals off the streets and control the over-population. So many millions of animals shouldn’t have to suffer homelessness and being put down every year just because people aren’t doing their part as owners.
Here is a chart to show how fast animals reproduce and why overpopulation escalates:
The second thing besides intact pets that I have seen in Europe and the UK that annoys me even more is mild animal abuse. The first time I saw someone hit their dog was in Belgium and I literally stopped and stared at them. The other times, I have been in Wales. Cute, happy, quaint little Wales and yet people are smacking their dogs. If you ever would consider hitting or physically harming your dog or cat, DO NOT buy one. It’s so simple. Animal abuse should never be tolerated, especially in public at cafes or on the beach! I hope to God this isn’t a cultural thing, but I can’t be sure. Again, the US is not exempt from this, there is plenty of animal abuse around our country as well and while some legislation is helping, it needs to get under control and should never be tolerated.
Now moving on to Morocco…
First I just want to be clear that I do understand not only are the cultures from the United States to Europe to Africa all immensely different, but the levels of education on certain subjects as well as the economy and resources provided to take care of animals vary greatly as well. I also believe that it is hard to criticize another country when we haven’t even fixed a lot of these issues for ourselves at home. And again, I am simply trying to raise awareness as well as reflect on what I have witnessed during my travels.
While in Morocco, we drove through a lot of farm land and cities in poverty on our way to the bigger “touristy” places. Our guide told us that the people of these areas make all their profits off of farming. As we drove through it was easy to see fields upon fields with the farmer out hard at work in the sun, but farming doesn’t limit itself to crops. We passed countless herds of cattle and sheep, and while it was clear to see that they were skinnier than our cattle at home, it’s hard to pass judgement. These farmers make their living off their cows and so it can be assumed that they do all they can with the nutritional education and resources available to them. Two other “farm” animal welfare things that I observed while in Morocco involved sheep and chickens. First, we stopped at a gas station on our way through the mountains, and while there, a big van pulled in. Strapped to the top of the van were two sheep. I assumed at first that they were already dead, but upon further investigation, I noticed that they were fully tied down, with only slight ability to move their heads, and they were alive! Practically baking to death in the 90 degree weather…talk about fresh dinner. Definitely part of the culture for them I’m sure, but it was a shocking sight. Lastly, while wandering through a market street in Tetuan, we came across a hole in the wall shop filled with chickens just running lose. Customers literally just walk up, point to a chicken, and it is butchered right there for you. Again, not something you see in Carmel, Indiana, but definitely cultural and a bit of a shock although I know it’s similar to areas in the States.
Now back to my FAVE subject…overpopulation!
In every city I visited in Morocco, I don’t think it was possible to walk more than 10 feet without seeing at least one cat or more. I’ve never had such conflicting emotions of both being in awe of the beauty of a place and yet still horrified at the sight of all these cats. I am roughly estimating, but I would say 1 in every 6 cats looked mildly healthy or well fed. Most of the cats looked underfed which broke my heart. A large handful of them had swollen paws and cuts/scars. Most of the time you would encounter these cats trying to sneak a bite to eat by market stores or laying like trash along the streets. To top it all off, a scary amount of these cats had kittens with them. Even worse, sometimes I saw kittens on their own with no mother in sight.
Not everyone ignores these cats though, thank God. I witnessed a few people toss scraps out to cats to eat or set out cups of water. I also noticed that a lot of cats, especially ones with litters, had been given cardboard boxes to take shelter in. I even met my soulmate, a man who took a cat (he named her Ginger!) and her kittens off the street. He told me he took them to the vet and was going to keep them. I wish their were more people like him out there!! While taking cats off the street or providing them with shelters and food is a nice gesture, it won’t stop the over population issues.
I know part of is it under education about the issue and how to deal with it, and the rest is probably lack of resources and facilities. Not only is education about over population important, but it is important to understand cats health and diseases as well which are issues world wide. For example, as I watched a woman sweep/beat kittens that were maybe only a couple months old or less off her porch, I heard an American girl tell me something along the lines of “you don’t understand, they probably have rabies.” The only thing I didn’t understand in that moment was how people could look at a kitten and be so cruel. Education on zoonotic diseases definitely needs raised because, I’m no expert, but I am 95% sure those kittens didn’t have rabies.
As far as facilities, I used to work at a spay/neuter clinic. I know that it take maybe 15 minutes to spay a cat and even less to neuter a male. If funds were put into trips going around catching, fixing, and releasing cats, that would already help half the battle. Programs like this are currently operating in the States, even if we do still have large overpopulation numbers. I truly believe that with education and effort/passion put behind resources, animal welfare can go up so much and overpopulation can be decreased each year.
My dreams are to come back one day once I am actually certified to and hopefully make a difference for these babies. I hope that I somewhat inspired you all as well to want to raise awareness, donate to animals in need, or at the very least neuter/spay your pets (or adopt)!
Apologies for my somewhat of a “rant” and always for my poor writing skills.
Below are photos of some of the sweetheart cats I saw during my travels.
“Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.” — Jonathan Safran
“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” — Immanual Kant
“If everyone took personal responsibility for their animals, we wouldn’t have a lot of the animal problems that we do. I’m a big spay-and-neuter supporter. Don’t have babies if you’re not going to take care of those babies. We don’t need more. We just need to take care of the ones we have. Take responsibility and breathe kindness.” — Betty White