By Advocate | January 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm
The Wildcat Sanctuary’s director has a quote that often rings in my head. “We cannot rescue ourselves out of the captive wildlife crisis.” I’ve only been at the Sanctuary a short time and I humbly admit now that when I started here I thought we COULD rescue our way out. I thought if we and other accredited sanctuaries just took in all the unwanted, exploited abandoned cats, we could “fix” the problem.
Now, six months later and countless desperate phone calls from people wanting to surrender cats or report abuse, I know the truth. We cannot rescue our way out of the captive wildlife crisis. For every cat we rescue, a breeder somewhere is making six more. For every exotic pet we have surrendered to us, there are hundreds more left in tiny cages, chained to the ground or ignored in backyards.
While this information came as a huge disappointment to me, and a stunning reality check that has kept me awake on more than one night, it has also inspired me to learn more about how we CAN make a difference.
I often think back to the 1970′s impactful public service announcement showcasing a Native American man in a canoe shedding a tear for the environment. Back in the 70′s, it was commonplace for people to throw trash out their car windows. Fast food bags, pop cans, empty cigarette packs and even diapers were tossed with no regard for what it may be doing to the environment.
Through the years, we realized the error of our ways. We woke up to our ignorance of the truth. If everyone uses the earth as their garbage can, there will no future for our children. I don’t think the people of the 70′s and before were any meaner, or less intelligent than we are today. They were just ignorant, uninformed and not educated on the environment.
Likewise, I think this is the very root of the captive wildlife crisis. People do not realize that when they attend circuses or pet a tiger at a roadside zoo they are greasing the palms of the people whose greed has led to the problem of homeless and abandoned exotic pets in the first place.
If people continue to buy these “pets” from breeders instead of adopting one of the millions of appropriate pets from a shelter, they will continue to perpetuate the problem. I don’t believe the general public would condone or celebrate the captive, exploited existence of so many of these animals – they just don’t realize how they contribute.
If, every day, those of us who speak for the animals touch one person and ask them to touch another and so on, be it in conversation or through Facebook or in other creative ways, we can make a difference.
Just as our children now know that they can’t throw their garbage out the window, I trust that one day their children would not think of not spaying or neutering their pets or going to a circus or petting a baby tiger at the mall or getting a serval as a pet.
Just like the Native American man who shed a tear for the environment, I like to believe that every tear we shed today will spare a tear for future generations. I know that we can’t rescue our way out of the exotic animal pet trade. But we can educate our way out. As we begin 2013, please join us in continuing to spread the No More Wild Pets message.
Together, we can change the future!
Holly Henry – The Wildcat Sanctuary, Communications Manager