One of the most common questions I’ve been asked for almost twenty years now is: If a person can’t take care of themselves and their family, why should they have a pet?
When I began working with homeless dog owners living on Skid Row back in 1996, this wasn’t a question I ever considered because it wasn’t any of my business. I have always believed, and still do believe, that everyone deserves support. Meeting someone where they are in life today, in whatever situation they’re in, along with their pet, and offering them options, resources, and solutions is vital in order to truly make lasting change for animals.
It’s highly likely that if you’re reading this blog, you care deeply about animals. We’re so glad that you do. But what about their people? Because many of these people are extremely poor; it can feel to them as if they’ll never get out from under it. Some live on the street, or in their cars, or they rely on motel vouchers to get by. And these same people often sneak their pets into those motels when no one is looking, or hide them on the bus, or make the street-life or car-living work for as long as possible until they are forced to give up their pet. Yes, forced. Because the truth is, some of the families we serve make an income of less than $1,000 a month. Sometimes it’s far less than that. Whether low income or no income, the working poor, or under employed, however it’s defined, this population has one thing in common when it comes to their animals: if a single minor emergency happens, there is little if anything that the pet owner can do.
For example, this little dog (pictured left) was almost surrendered to the South LA Shelter for having seizures. The family paid for an exam and were told by the veterinarian that his condition could be very expensive, including daily medicine and more testing. Despite not wanting to surrender “their baby,” the family felt they had no choice. They could not afford the treatments and procedures. That’s where our shelter intervention program stepped in and offered financial assistance in order to help keep one more little brown Chihuahua from coming into the shelter. Because this dog had a home and a loving family who wanted him. Should they be deemed unworthy of having a pet simply because they couldn’t afford his extreme health condition? We don’t think that’s fair. We believe in opening our hearts to animals, and the people who love them.
Furthermore, we know that the only thing constant is change. The family mentioned above who is living in poverty with their dog may work their way up and out of their current financial situation. They may be able to one day support themselves without assistance, and it could happen in a matter of months or a couple years. We hope it does. But the life expectancy of a Chihuahua is 15-18 years. Therefore, in theory, any dog in any family […]