Poland is known for its love for pets. Historically, we have always been devoted to horses and dogs; nowadays, plenty of people keep dogs and cats as their beloved pets. Almost in half of Polish households there may be found a dog and nearly one third has at least one cat. The greatest number of dogs is held by people of lower social status.
However, the Poles’ attitude towards dogs is not explicit. On one hand, dogs are considered to be our friends, but on the other we get plenty of information on abandoned pets and difficult financial situation of animal shelters. The greatest number of dogs can be found in the country; over 70% of farm households keep dogs. The animals are primarily kept there for reasons different from those of the city dwellers. Country dogs are to protect and maintain certain order in a household. They usually stay outdoors in doghouses and are very often chained. Sometimes they run loose or play the role of simple family pets, just as their city cousins. There is also a number of hunting dogs’ breeds, which are seen by some as superior to other pets. The role they are to perform is crucial during hunting: they chase, trail, and fetch small game and assist humans with their activities.
In the Polish cities dogs are kept in around 1/3 of homes. City dogs are mainly our pets; more and more people of higher social status tend to purchase new and quite exotic, hence expensive, dogs’ breeds. They buy special food for animals, funny gadgets, and even toys; they pay regular visits to the vet and sometimes treat their pet with such much affection that they seem not to be able to elicit towards any human being. Some people “specialize” in some special breeds such as sled dogs, Dutch hounds, Pekinese or solely in mongrels.
And everything would seem fine if not for one important problem: the issue of dogs’ droppings. We do love our dogs, but at the same time in general we are very reluctant to clear after our beloved ones. Until recently, there was no law regulation imposing the requirement of cleaning any public space off dogs’ droppings on the owner in Poland. At present, the regulations have been amended and now it is forbidden by law, and treated as an offence, to lead a dog without a leash or a muzzle and to leave dirt. As usually in Poland, regulations live their own life, and people very slowly change their bad habits. This law is poorly reinforced and until the situation changes we are bound to put up with dirty streets, parks, and squares.
There are also a number of people who treat dogs as toys; they buy them just because a given breed has become trendy in Poland and might serve as a sign of their social and financial status; later on they get bored with their pet and very often such an animal finds itself handed over to animal shelter. On the other hand there are also people who really care about animals and their rights; volunteers and organizations which help abandoned pets and struggle to provide better living conditions for them. From time to time public auctions are organized where one might buy a dog from a shelter. Sometimes we might watch a public advertisement of some campaign supporting animals’ right on TV.
The most important thing, however, is to revise and change our attitude towards our pets – not only those living in Poland. To treat them as living creatures, with responsibility and respect in order to fully enjoy the pleasure and affection they give back.