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Incarceration is a common theme in every society, as it is designed to keep people who have been sentenced as lawbreakers behind bars for a specific period. Most times, this incarceration can take be a long period, depending on the severity of the crime(s) and case. These incidents, as much as they affect someone have a lasting impact on members of their family.


The period of incarceration can be a trying time for everyone involved, but one family member not usually considered is a pet. Yes, we keep the little guys at home as a company during our trying times, whether a cat, dog, or even a bunny. This article will discuss “Are Pets Affected By The Incarceration of Their Owners Or Caretakers?”.


Due to ongoing life occurrences, some people may unintentionally neglect or don't even have a fallback plan for their pets if a major and unexpected event happens. So here we are, asking the question that doesn't get asked in such situations. The question being, " Are pets affected by the incarceration of their owners or caretakers?". Let’s look at the effects of such incidents on pets and proactive actions that can be taken to avert negative outcomes and keep pets of the incarcerated safe and healthy.

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The Effects Of Incarceration Of Pet Owners On Their Pets


A huge misconception that most people hold is that pets usually do not have emotions and cannot comprehend the entirety of their owner's plight. Yes, although most people have incidents or situations where their pets have been overly protective or may even show some mushy expression, we often overlook such situations as a one-time occurrence. Well, this is not true, as it has been proven that our pets, over time, build emotional attachments with us, and they feel our absence or pain.


According to a research paper by Maki Katayama et al., it is said that dogs and their owners reflected similar emotions when under psychological stress. This suggests that as much as our pets have been domesticated, there is a possibility of them feeling our pain and psychological stress.


In the case of incarceration, which no one may plan for, pets may notice a change in their welfare and understand the absence of their owners, especially in cases of ill-treatment or neglect. Most times, when such incidences occur, there might be changes in the pet’s behavior, as they would often disregard the instructions of their secondary caretakers and become what appears to be unruly. In these instances, pets may be more likely to escape from their secondary caretakers, if they are not closely monitored, and head for the streets, obviously in a troubled state.


Preparing A Pet For Their Owner's Incarceration


As we discussed in the previous section, a pet can notice their owner’s absence, which is more evident in cases such as ill-treatment or a negative change in their welfare. However, this can be avoided with a concrete plan made to ensure the safety and care of these pets. It is often best to consult a familiar figure to the pet and open the idea of them taking care of the pet during any incarceration period.


However, this may be tough, especially if the owner doesn't have close or trusted family or friends willing to accept the responsibility of caring for their pet. There are issues of pet food and grooming expenses, hygiene maintenance, play time, hiring any pet sitters while a secondary caretaker runs errands or goes to work, and other necessary tasks. Pets can often end up in shelters, especially if the owner is gone for a long time. So, it is best to find a secondary caretaker who would give the pet a new home and reduce the effect of its owner's absence over time.


Is Depression Possible In Pets During Their Owner’s Incarceration?


Most people do not know that pets get depression, and it can kill a large percentage of pets. According to Kathleen Dunn, a veterinarian, she claims that "dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and even Iguanas can experience depression." This can be due to several reasons, and the absence or loss of a loved one can play a pivotal role. So just like humans, our pets are capable of feeling emotions and would often get depressed when a change in care or absence of specific persons is noticed.

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How to Keep Pets Safe And In Optimal Health And Condition When The Owner Is Incarcerated


When unexpected incidents like incarceration occur, planning for the welfare of pets is usually very important, as they most times suffer the psychological and physical absence of their owners. This has been going on for a long time, and most pets are blessed if the families and friends of the owner decide to keep the pet for the period of incarceration. Although the assimilation period can be tough, what happens in cases of no willing, responsible, loving, caring, and providing secondary caretakers?


This is where private adoptions may come into play and give the pets a chance at having a safe, loving, caring, and happy home if the owner and/or secondary caretaker are unable to care for the pet. Most communities provide such services and allow people to adopt these pets for specified periods or indefinitely.


If the owner decides to leave their pet with secondary caretakers, then providing them with a detailed routine of their pet's needs, likes, dislikes, health issues, care and maintenance instructions, and other important information would reduce the effect of their absence. Pet owners who are aware that they are about to be incarcerated have an active role to play in the welfare of their pets even while being locked up, as they already have more understanding of the pet's welfare.


An inmate may already feel heightened stress of being incarcerated. However, keeping up with the welfare of their pet may feel overwhelming to some incarcerated people or like a priority to others. Aside from keeping up with their children and families, keeping the lines of communication open about their pet(s) may be something that keeps them going as well.


It is best that once a secondary caretaker has been found, the pet owner should highlight every possible piece of information required for their pet's care. If the pet has a streak or is prone to injury, this information should be passed onto the new caretaker and veterinary intervention may be required to keep them in optimal and healthy condition.


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What Can Happen To Pets Put In Shelter During Incarceration


For some pet advocates, pet shelters aren’t a place for a pet that who has experienced consistent familial love and care, as most times, they may find it hard to cope. Although shelters are designed to keep stray pets away from the streets, they are also designed to provide shelter and feed them and not always with consistent love or attention.


Due to a shelter’s pet housing population, providing love for each of these pets may be impossible, so pets that have experienced the former love, care, and attention of a stable home from their incarcerated owner would, most of the time, have a tough time in such situations. Cases of depression and self-inflicted injury can become common, and the pets often don't last the stretch.

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It may not be a regular occurrence for a pet owner to anticipate that they will become incarcerated. If they own and care for a pet, their pet needs to be placed with a responsible secondary caretaker who is willing to provide a safe, stable, and loving home for the pet of the incarcerated.


Pets can become depressed and troubled if their owner is incarcerated and they do not have a willing, responsible, loving, caring, and providing secondary caretaker to accept them in their home. Pets of the incarcerated can end up in shelters and may not do well or last there. The pet owner and secondary caretaker need to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to the pet’s welfare and a decision can be made whether it is best to place the pet of the incarceration up for adoption.


So, when it comes to reducing the effects of a pet's owner's incarceration on their pets, it is best to provide prompt and adequate care during that period. Depending on the period of incarceration, a pet that has been properly planned for wouldn't find it hard coping through the period and would be quite happy if or when its owner returns.

For more information on pet care, click the link, below: (Disclaimer: Affiliate Advertising. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

Pet Preparedness: A Household Handbook For Pet Owners (31 Small Steps) Paperback - August 27, 2019 By Shawndra Holmberg