Demands by the Saskatchewan government on a Regina family to give up their serval cat have thrown the issue of losing a beloved family pet in sharp relief.
“It can’t be an easy decision for anybody to make,” said Karla Pratt, fundraising and promotions co-ordinator for the Moose Jaw Humane Society. “We have seen cases where families have been torn asunder by this decision.”
Jagger, the cat at the heart of the conflict, is one of a rare breed of African serval cats, adopted by Regina’s Shaheen family from a breeder in British Columbia.
While the province insists Jagger is a wild animal that threatens public safety, the Shaheens contend that he is docile, declawed and neutered.
Because serval cats are a particularly rare breed, most owners won’t have to worry about losing their pet at the behest of the government. Instead, many surrenders are the result of other, more mundane reasons, said Pratt.
“Often, we have had people surrender their pets,” she said, “usually it’s in the case of a move and the owners can’t bring their pets with them — that’s the most common reason — but also, sometimes a person in the house develops an allergy or there’s a new child who has a pet allergy.”
Don Simons, director of communications for the Regina Humane Society, noted the impact that surrendering a pet can have on its owners.
“A lot of people come in here and are particularly devastated,” he said, “it’s heartbreaking. People who’ve had pets know that they do become an important part of the family.”
But the loss also affects the surrendered pet, said Pratt.
“Being taken away from it’s people and it’s comfortable environment can be hard on (an animal),” she said. “Some pets come in and are timid, or scared, and may even lash out ... we have animals come in like that, and they stay that way.”
In order to minimize the damage done to both the family and the pet, Pratt said the Humane Society generally encourages people to re-home the animal themselves.
“We always really try to suggest to people that need a new home for their pets to use the shelter as a last resort,” she said, adding that owners who need to surrender their pets can use newspaper classifieds, e-mail and even social media as a venue to find the animal a new home.