If you have ever said, “if they can’t afford a pet, they shouldn’t have one,” please read.
Most of you know I did rescue before starting PETS Clinic. The last dog I rescued was a black pit bull named Sketch. Because of a post-operative complication, he couldn’t go back to the boarding facility so I persuaded my Mom to “foster” temporarily while he healed. When she learned he was a pit bull, she expressed a lot of concern but agreed anyway.
None of the people that came to look at Sketch were the right fit and we feared he just didn’t photograph well. In every picture, Sketch looked menacing. In real life, he was the friendliest, mildest mannered dog any of us had ever met. And I have met a LOT of dogs. While trying to snap yet another picture for the newspaper, I noticed my Mom was crying as she tried to hold Sketch still. Her husband, Mike, said, “I think he has a home.” So my last rescue landed the best home ever and got to stay in the family.
Sketch broke every stereotype about pit bulls and changed the minds of anyone he met. The biggest transformation was within Mike. Mike had grown up loving animals and was even an actual cowboy for quite some time but animals were still animals and belonged outside in his mind. Sketch taught him how much a pet brings into the home when allowed in and it was rare to see Mom or Mike without Sketch in tow.
A few short years later, Mike was diagnosed with cancer and spent a full year fighting for his life. Having to leave town for treatments was made worse because he had to leave Sketch but when he was home, Sketch never left his side. Sketch provided more comfort and love than all of us combined. Mike beat the cancer and he and Sketch had several more amazing years together.
I think about my dogs and the joy they bring my life. I have a great life. I have never struggled with hunger, worried about a roof over my head, or had to choose between medication and gas money for work. Still, my dogs are the highlight of every day and when I am down, nothing comforts me more than the weight of one of my dog’s heads in my lap. My darkest hours have been spent under the covers of my bed, in the dark, sobbing into my dog’s fur. I have never been comforted by a human like I have my dogs so it hurts my feelings that any human regardless of means may ever be denied the loyalty and love a pet offers. Considering the great amount of suffering in this world, especially by those who live in poverty, everyone that wants a pet should have one as far as I’m concerned.
In my clinic, we serve pet owners of all backgrounds and some are homeless. There is nothing comparable to the bond between a pet and pet owner when the only thing they have in the world is each other. It seems to me we should strive to protect this bond and not judge it. That pet may not be on heartworm prevention and it may eat scraps like its owner but I promise there are few pets loved more. Shouldn’t we try to create a society that protects that relationship and makes vet care accessible to pet owners of all economic standing. Instead of having shelters full of unwanted pets, can we celebrate the pets that are desperately wanted even if it means their care has to be subsidized?
What this looks like to me is free vet care for economically disadvantaged pet owners. It looks like pet food assistance, free flea/tick prevention, and pet deposits paid so that these pets can stay with the families that love them. It looks like human shelters that allow pets and domestic violence organizations that plan for pets to flee with the victims. It looks like city wide evacuation plans that count on pets needing sanctuary and transportation too. It looks like increased affordable housing that accepts pets and lastly it looks like the end to pet overpopulation and suffering. Isn’t this our goal?
If those of us in Animal Welfare really want to help, we can’t ignore the pet owners that we wouldn’t adopt to, on the contrary, we should open our minds and make sure these pet owners are considered. After all, they are going to get a pet somewhere, shouldn’t we make sure they adopt? Or is adoption only for pet owners making 100k or more each year? Isn’t it our job to ensure programs are in place to help ALL pets, not just the ones in the shelters? If we spent half as much time and resources keeping pets in their homes as we do preaching to adopt, my guess is we would probably solve our own problem or at least a large part of it.
The world is a hard place. Life is difficult even on good days for everyone. Doesn’t everyone that wants a pet deserve the companionship they provide?