We welcomed an abandoned dog into our family. But dog dumping harms animals and people alike.

November 17, 2023 3:33 am
Ollie the dog

Ollie the dog was abandoned on columnist Ron Smith’s property and has become part of the family. But that’s not the usual outcome of dog dumping. (Ron Smith)

In early October, I went outside the house to check on an outbuilding shed door. The Kansas wind had been howling and the door had blown open.

Something that looked like a white sheet of plastic had blown up against the fence by our gate. I walked out to the gate and about 10 feet from it, a large dog head popped up.

The look on his face said, “Where you been?”

I opened the gate and moved outside gingerly. This dog didn’t know me, and I didn’t know he/she/it. The dog was large, at least 90 pounds. White all over. Tail wagging. About a year old, the vet told us later, so he was just an overgrown pup. He was an intact male and originally, we thought he was a Great Pyrenees. We’ve had other Pyrs, but the new dog’s head was different.

The dog came over, sniffed me once, and without me saying a word, sat down, looked me in the eye, and lifted one big front paw to be shaken.

Lord. Have you ever had a strange dog you’ve never seen before who doesn’t know you from Adam raise a paw to be shaken at your first meeting?

The craziest thing about that Sunday was the dog was chained to our fence. Someone in broad daylight had parked behind our shop where we can’t see the road, brought the dog over, clipped him to the gate, and drove away. We’ve had large white dogs in our place. Perhaps someone had driven by, seen our bigger white dogs, and decided to unload him with us.

The more I think about it, the dog was abandoned and dumped on us, but I’m hoping it was an abandonment of love. This dog is hard not to love.

My wife is an expert. She’s had lots of different breeds of dogs. My dog experience was limited to my early youth with mutts who chased trucks on a two-lane highway in Jewell County. We buried most of them. When my wife and I married, I wasn’t used to domestic animals. And those we had were fenced into my wife’s one-and-a-half-acre curtilage, so they have plenty of room to ward off coyotes and track the nightly deer herd movement from behind a six-foot fence.

I named him Ollie. My wife prefers Oliver. He acts like an Ollie, not an Oliver. When I brought him “inside” the fence for the first time, he did some zoomies in the yard and crouched playfully in front of me, a tongue-hanging dog smile on his face, waiting on my next move.

Someone has trained him. And loved him. I wish I knew Ollie’s backstory.


Animal victims

Folks don’t realize dog dumping or a host of other unpleasantries to animals is a misdemeanor. Even abandoning an animal is a crime, “the knowing abandoning of any animal in any place without making provisions for its proper care.” Fines and possible jail time for intentional conduct doesn’t seem to deter dumping. A lot of dumping happens at night or in rural areas, with few witnesses. But it is certainly not a victimless crime.

The victim is the animal.

All sorts of reasons exist why Ollie might have been dumped. He might have been an elderly couple’s dog and the primary caregiver died. Or someone lost a job and couldn’t afford him anymore. COVID-19 is over, and perhaps someone didn’t need the companionship anymore. Or someone had to move to a place where bigger dogs were not allowed.

Humane societies noticed an initial increase in dumping in 2008, during the mortgage crisis. People lost their homes and couldn’t keep their pets. Some were abandoned and left in the homes that were angrily trashed as the previous owners moved out, leaving the dogs or cats to starve.

The pandemic also saw dog dumping. People lost jobs and couldn’t support animals any more. But the pandemic is not a factor now, and jobs are out there. Millennials are the largest generation of pet owners in America and the UK, and they abandon a lot of dog breeds. Certain stylish breeds (i.e. French bulldogs) are touted by the Hollywood types on Instagram. But millennials don’t like the medical costs and problems presented by certain breeds.

Dumping is becoming a worldwide problem. And those of you who think you love cats more than dogs and thus cat people would never do cat dumping, think again. In Australia, cats get abandoned quickly if the female has unwanted kittens. One litter of cats was found locked inside a suitcase with a note requesting they be cared for. They were dead, and there were scratches on the inside showing they were desperately trying to get out.

Dumping is becoming a worldwide problem. And those of you who think you love cats more than dogs and thus cat people would never do cat dumping, think again.

– Ron Smith

They were “treated like garbage” with a “total absence of compassion,” said South Australia’s chief RSPCA inspector, Andrea Lewis.

In rural Texas outside Houston, the city folks bring their pets to the country to dump them, assuming the dogs will be invited to “live on a farm.” That’s the coward’s way of saying they dump their dogs, writes Lisa Seger.

In Texas, a dumped dog is often shot. In rural communities with no animal control office, the sheriff is also the dogcatcher. With few alternatives for the dogs, the sheriff often gets the inglorious job of executioner. It’s called “SSS.” Shoot, shovel and shut up.

A dog brought up in the city with regular meals abandoned in the rural countryside endures hunger and turns predator to survive. Chickens, domestic cats, goats, sheep, calves — virtually anything that moves — are at risk. Then the predator dog has to be SSS’d, just like a wolf or coyote.

The most likely outcome for any dumped dog is death, sometimes in gruesome ways. Food laced with antifreeze or rat poison. Guard dogs protecting the farm’s livestock will attack a stray dog, doing what training and instinct tells them to do. Others are killed by coyotes or mountain lions. In Texas, wild boars can attack humans in their homes let alone a dumped city dog in the thickets.

The chances of city dogs finding a home on a farm in Texas or Kansas or anywhere else is slim to none.


Society’s priorities

Some folks have reasons why they can no longer care for a dog. Humane societies then try to “rehome a dog.” Friends or family are the best options. Facebook discussions and pictures can excite local folks about pets. If the dog is injured or severely malnourished, sometimes the best thing that can be done is euthanize them, but they need not be dumped and abandoned.

The worst thing about pet dumping is the impact on the family who abandons the animal. I can only imagine that impact on me if I took Ollie some place and dumped him. Children especially cannot understand when a pet is suddenly taken out of the house. The most common feeling among owners is betrayal, especially those families who didn’t want to lose the dog but had no choice.

No animal deserves to be hauled miles from home, pushed out of a car in an unfriendly place and left to find food and avoid the labyrinth of lethal varmints that do not appreciate dogs or cats being in their neighborhood. Thankfully, Ollie did not suffer abandonment. But our priorities are screwed up.

Obviously, our tiny farm is not a private humane society. But there is one great thing about Ollie. He recognizes a good deal when he smells it. Someone gave up a healthy, excellent super dog. He was dumped and pinned to my gate.

For the time he has been with us, a growl has not been in his vocabulary. Ollie scarfs down chow to indicate he is not interested in being returned like a carton of empty milk bottles.

That’s fine with us.

Ron Smith is a fifth-generation Kansan, a native of Manhattan, an attorney practicing in Larned, a grandfather several times over, a Vietnam veteran and a civil war historian. Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.


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Ron Smith
Ron Smith

Ron Smith is a fifth-generation Kansan, a native of Manhattan, an attorney practicing in Larned, a grandfather several times over, a Vietnam veteran and a civil war historian. He has written a variety of historical articles about 19th century lawyers for the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association and a biography of Thomas Ewing Jr., the state’s first chief justice, published by the University of Missouri Press. His Civil War novel, “The Wastage” was released in 2018.