A similiar question was posed on the Best Friends Forum:
Do low income animal lovers deserve pets? nmhpforum
Question from Beri:
In response to how low prices need to be in order for low income people to afford to have their pets fixed: Why would you encourage pet ownership to a person who is on welfare? I mean if you're getting $500-$600 a month, how can you afford a pet?
Response from Celeste Crimi:
This is somewhat off-topic, but since it strikes at the very heart of whether or not low cost spay/neuter programs are a good use of our energy and resources, let's look at this issue.
First, who said anything about encouraging pets for people on welfare? The reality is that a certain segment of disabled people, or seniors, or people on welfare for any other reason, love animals just as much as those of us with greater means. And many communities recognize this and have various programs to assist with food, vaccines, litter...and spay/neuter.
From an intellectual, animal rights perspective we can say that animals shouldn't be pets. But that argument applies equally to all of us. I can see that with my head, but when I try and imagine life without my animal family, my heart starts to ache with a sense of desolate loss. My stomach tightens up imagining a house too still, time too empty. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way.
When I was growing up there were years when we didn't have animals and it really weighed on my brother and I. We would make pathetic, desperate attempts to fill that void. We'd pester our neighbors to let us make friends with any cat or dog we came across in the neighborhood. I wouldn't wish that feeling of perpetual longing on anyone.
More than that, many of the people who contact us for assistance have actually been 'subscribed' what is termed a companion animal. These 'pets' help their people cope with anxiety disorders, poor social skills, and a tenuous hold on normal life. To these people, their pet family is everything in a nerve-wracking and instable world. The good piece of news is that the law requires that these pets be allowed to move with their people. Landlords can't refuse them. Oregon State doesn't currently provide for these animals to be fixed, which is where low cost clinics, programs and events step in.
Is that entirely fair? Shouldn't the government be footing the bill if they're writing the order? Well, we could argue indefinitely about the role the government should or shouldn't play in regards to companion animals. But while we're discussing that issue, a few thousand more kittens and puppies will be born--most to low-income households!
The reality is that low income people have pets. There is no way we are going to change human nature with a position statement, or even a mandate. And besides, how much money is enough?
If we're being entirely honest, how many people have the funding necessary to pay for 'anything' their pets might need in an emergency? A lot of us would be hard pressed if one of our own pets came down with a rare disease and needed $50,000 or more of daily blood transfusions, hospitalization, IV therapy, transplants, etc for an extended period. We can rationalize that if push came to shove, we'd come up with the money...somehow. Do we think that those of us with lesser means feel any differently?
When we as animal welfare advocates design low cost spay/neuter events and programs, we do it partly to serve our own purposes. And that's okay. We want the pet overpopulation problem to go away, whatever its source. I think we're actually being smart by targeting the animals that come from the lowest income households. They're going to be out there, suffering as too-young mothers and fathers. And it's our choice whether those critters are cranking out kittens and puppies faster than we can order up the euthanasia solution, or if we're facilitating a kinder world, where at least they get a break from the travails of reproduction.
Besides, many of the people assisted by low cost spay/neuter are only temporarily down on their luck. They're unemployed, or got hurt in an accident, or they're students, or Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Yes, POPPA has helped 3 families who left the South with their pets and are finding refuge in Oregon. Do I wish they'd thought of that crazy spay/neuter idea a long time ago, when they were living down South? Sure. But it's not for me to judge why they put the surgery off until disaster struck. Maybe there were no affordable options in their area. Maybe they'd just adopted the animal and hadn't 'gotten around to it.' Maybe they hadn't realized the benefits before. I just want them to get their animals fixed so they won't contribute to our shelter intakes.
Lastly, not all people on public assistance are asking for help for their own pets. Their first impulse when they see a stray, just as it would be any animal lovers', is to put out a dish of food. How many can say that they carefully planned every animal they've shared their life with? How many of us balance our checkbook before opening our doors to a homeless animal? My friend Jody has physically been responsible for literally thousands of ferals and strays being spayed and neutered. Because she isn't able to work, she fills a niche when the rest of us can't; while we're resting up for our day jobs, she's out in the middle of the night with a car full of traps and tuna.
I could go on, but I think I'll let some testimonials from POPPA recipients speak for me:
â€œAs a low income person who spends all her extra money on her pets, I am very thankful for the donation made by POPPA towards getting my cat neutered. It is wonderful that an organization acts responsibly for their communityâ€™s pet population by assisting owners with necessary care for the health and happiness of their pets. It was a great relief to me to receive a discount when getting my cat fixed, so that I would in turn have more money towards his care. Thank you for your help, you have a wonderful organization!.â€ ~ M.B.
â€œMy income as a Homecare Worker is $300 per month. My client is a family member and I live with her. These kittens keep her entertained and she is very close to them, they have become her devoted companions. I have sought other programs, but those are depleted of funds and this seems to be all that is left for us to try. Thank you for the chance.â€ ~ B.G.
â€œI've undergone some serious medical things recently and I'm just getting back on my feet, I would never normally take in animals without being able to take care of them. I think it's amazing that there are people like you who don't just love animals but help us make sure that ours won't add to the genocide on unwanted critters. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that you contacted me.â€ ~ J.J.
Chief Seattle made a very famous speech, wherein he asks, "What is man without the beasts ? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit."
But I think perhaps a No More Homeless Pets member, Charlene, said it best when she once wrote, "Let's face it: when you can't afford a trip to the movies or a night out with your spouse or a day trip anywhere or even basic living expenses, often the only thing that makes life bearable is knowing that somebody at home loves you and isn't complaining about having no money to buy a better brand of kibble or the latest in fashionable collars!"