When Pets are Invasive Species

“An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian, plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.  They can harm the environment, the economy or even, human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label of ‘invasive’.”

-National Wildlife Federation

Invasive species are a serious problem in several parts of the world.  Animals can be released into a place they are not supposed to be through many ways.  They can be brought over by foreign ships, introduced on purpose to “control an issue”, or hitch hike on a traveler.  They can even be non native pets released into the wild.

Just because you don’t want a pet anymore, it doesn’t mean you should throw it on the curb.  Abandoning a non native animal is a cruel thing to do, because that animal will either die because they are not adapted to the environment, or live to wreak havoc on nature, which is bad for others who have to share that space.  The animals will compete for food and space with the native wildlife, and will possibly even distress the native people.  Bugs that are introduced in to places they shouldn’t be often carry diseases that can destroy both flora and fauna.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is terrorizing the trees of the midwest.  They and their larva will bore holes in ash trees, eventually killing it.  They came from their habitats in China, Russia, and Japan, before somehow ending up in Michigan and ravaging the trees.  They have killed tens of millions of Ash trees, and they continue to multiply quickly.

Now the above example is about invasive species that was unknowingly imported from across the world, but our issue lies in irresponsible pet owners.  The Tegu lizard is a reptile that was sold in pets shops, and is still sold in a few.  Many owners abandoned theses large reptilians, and they have spread rapidly.  They eat and and harass pets, and they have even been reported to kill cats.  Similar to the pythons invading Florida, they are difficult to get rid of.

Speaking of the slithering reptiles, the python has staked out the Florida Everglades as their favorite hunting ground.  They steal food from the alligators by eating everything in sight, and they have even gone so far as to knock the alligators off their place as top predator!  In some incidents, the pythons have even attempted to devour the gators themselves.  Pet owners started releasing unwanted pythons into the Everglades in the 1980’s.  It’s estimated that since 2013 there are 150,000 pythons in the Everglades, and their numbers just keep on growing.  They can reach a length of 6-9 feet long and they have no natural predators.

Friday Friend

deliliah
jock

These dogs are Jock (right) and Delilah (left).  They are both Pomeranian/Chihuahua mixes, and I met them when I want to pet therapy.

Pet therapy is where several Animal Education and Rescue (AEAR) volunteers visit a senior center with some animals.  Some of the pets are from AEAR, some “belong” to the volunteers.  We walk around to the room of the senior citizens and let them pet the animals.

Delilah and Jock are extremely well behaved.  Throughout pet therapy, they sat in the arms of the volunteers carrying them, and the were very chill.  They didn’t bark or act out once, and were friendly.  I wish I could adopt them myself!

Learn more about Jock here.

Learn more about Delilah here.

Where did the stray problem come from? (part 3)

Reproduction

Stray animals don’t only sit on streets and look for food, they need something to do sometimes.  And what they chose to do is not very helpful, considering we are trying to minimize the amount of stray animals in America.  An un-spayed female dog and her offspring can create 67,000 dogs in six years.  An un-spayed female cat and her offspring can create 420,000 cats in 7 years, according to One Green Planet.  Strays just make more and more strays.  That’s why animal activists have formed organizations like Spay and Stay.  The organization will spay/neuter  feral cats, then release them back into the wild to live out the rest of their lives (This process is know as TNR, Trap-Neuter-Return. Learn more here).  They don’t do this with regular strays, because they can be taken into shelters.  But feral cats have lived in the wild for their entire lives.  They are untrained and often aggressive, so society must find alternative ways of handling them.

It’s important to spay/neuter your house pets too, and keep them inside because they will breed with other pets.  Unwanted pet pregnancies are often why owners abandon their pet/new puppies.  Plan ahead instead of having to face this situation.  There are low cost spay/neuter clinics you can go to if you don’t have the money to pay for it yourself.  The Anti Cruelty Society runs a low income spay/neuter clinic in Chicago.

Strays breeding in the wild is not the only problem.  Dogs and cats are bred needlessly for profit, only to be sold in pet stores, reducing the pool of  people who could adopt shelter animals.  Puppy mills will mass breed dogs in confined and filthy spaces.  These mills continue to exist because of the minimal standard that the Animal Rights Act has set down.  This act allows the near prison-like conditions that the dogs live in, even if they’re not meaning to.