Responsible pet ownership is defined by how you love and care for your dog or cat. It is not defined by how much money you make.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen some disappointing comments appear recently on my older posts related to spaying/neutering. These comments were not written by trolls or animal rights nutjobs. They were written by dog lovers I respect.
“I mean really, if you can’t afford to spay/neuter, you can’t afford a dog,” one of my readers wrote.
Another responded: “I agree. If you can’t afford to have the pet s/n then you can not afford to have the pet.”
The problem with this mindset is it shows both a lack of compassion for people and a lack of creativity.
Have we forgotten how to help one another?
In order to make a difference for animals, it’s important to support their caregivers.
This support can happen in all sorts of ways (donating to a low-cost spay & neuter clinic would be a start), but the very first step is to stop viewing someone as an undeserving pet owner due to not making a certain amount of money.
Rather than suggest someone is “undeserving” of her dog because the dog is not spayed, why not connect her with an organization that can help?
PAWS San Diego
In San Diego where I live, we have the PAWS program through the San Diego Humane Society.
PAWS San Diego is there to help people keep their pets by providing essential pet services to low-income families all over our county. The goal is to keep pets in their homes and out of shelters.
From the PAWS website:
Our clients include seniors, people who are chronically ill and/or disabled, veterans, members of the military, and homeless individuals. As the largest pet safety net service in San Diego, the goal of this unique program is to keep pets in their homes and out of shelters.
Compassionate, dedicated volunteers are needed to assist the PAWS program. Our volunteers assist PAWS clients in a variety of ways, including delivery of pet food and supplies to homebound clients, transportation to vet appointments for clients who are unable to get there on their own, and dog walking for homebound and hospitalized clients.
Ruff Riders of Brooklyn
Another organization I’ve followed for a long time is Beyond Breed’s “Ruff Riders,” a grassroots project supporting pet owners in underserved neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
From its website:
Our team delivers free pet food/supplies, facilitates basic veterinary care and spay/neuter, provides transportation, and shares pet-related information with individuals who have trouble accessing and/or affording these services.
Brooklyn is the most populous borough in New York City, home to 2.5 million people and approximately 1.1 million pet dogs and cats, according to the Ruff Rider’s website.
Almost 25% of Brooklyn residents live in poverty, according to Ruff Riders. Some of the neighborhoods there do not have access to affordable pet care resources such as veterinary services, training or supplies, and 56% of Brooklynites don’t have cars.
Ruff Riders created the map below to show the “resource deserts” some pet owners are trapped in. The map shows areas with poverty compared to the areas where veterinary services are located.
The Ruff Riders project is focused on supporting the people in the communities most in need.
How arrogant to think that just because someone can’t afford to spay or neuter her dog she doesn’t deserve to have that dog.
If only life were predictable; it’s not.
Life can change in an instant for any one of us for all sorts of reasons – serious illness, natural disasters, divorce, domestic abuse, death, losing a job.
Every single one of us will run into our own version of hardship at some point, some more difficult than others.
For example, my husband and I both chose the path of self-employment a few years after college. Working for yourself has its benefits, but it also comes with financial ups and downs, especially when you’re 25 and just starting out.
Josh and I definitely had our moments where we were eating potatoes, putting $1.75 of gas in my car and wondering how we could buy a $30 bag of dog food.
But … we made it work, and we never once thought of giving up our dog or our cats.
We were lucky because we had each other, we could always pay our rent, were able to keep two vehicles and we made it beyond 2008 just fine.
Some families might make the decision to re-home their pets for whatever reason, but that is their own decision to make and they should certainly have the option of keeping their family members without judgement.
It’s rare that I would truly know the details of someone else’s circumstances.
How could I possibly judge someone while knowing so little?
If I want to support dogs and cats, it’s important to support their owners too. It’s the easiest way to keep animals out of shelters and with the families they know and love.
Do you have any examples of organizations making a difference for pet owners?
Feel free to list your examples in the comments.
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