Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poor people shouldn't have pets?

The hard hitting financial crisis is having it's effects on my friends and neighbors. My girlfriend has her finger solidly on the pulse of society, even though she neither reads newspapers nor watches television. She's on welfare and has foodstamps to get by.

A few months ago her cat's contacted cat disease, a horrid sickness that is mostly preventable by vaccination. Under normal conditions she would have had them all vaccinated, but since she had four kittens and another pregnant cat she could not afford to have them all done...
One of the older tomcats got sick and had to go to the vet's. He was committed and it cost something like 120 euro's to cure him. That was pretty much all her reserves for calamities and it wiped her out financially. They told her that they needed to do 55 euro's worth of testing to see what ailed him and she couldn't afford that. So she took him back home, not knowing what he had. There was a suspicion that it was cat's disease and well, we kept him seperate from the rest of the cats and hoped for the best.

For three weeks we hand fed the kittens, trying to help them survive this disease. It's a viral infection of the intestinal tract, the vet said, the main thing is to keep them hydrated and feed them to keep their intestines working. Subcutaneous injections, feeding them from a syringe and cleaning them regularly became our routine for three weeks. The end of the story is that five of the eight young kittens survived. A miracle according to the people in the animal shelter, because most often during an outbreak all the kittens die, as well as quite a few adults.

The local veterinarian said: "We rarely see cat's disease anymore, these days"

The local animal shelter said: "We see this kind of thing all the time, especially in these poor neighborhoods"

The difference is clear: the vet doesn't see these animals simply because the people who can't afford to vaccinate their animals can't afford to go to the veterinarians when they get sick either. My girlfriend had quite a few people who helped out to care for her cats. Unfortunately among the poor this is an extraordinary set of circumstances. Keeping up with social contacts can be difficult to do if you can never offer a round of drinks, never invite people to go to the movies... before you know it you don't see your friends anymore because you're afraid to impose.

A sign of the times: the animal shelters are filled with animals and summer vacations haven't even started yet. People who are on the bottom rung of the societal ladder simply can't afford to feed their pets, much less vaccinate them. My girlfriend's included a call to action on a sweepstakes for social projects and the ensueing discussion on the website from Trouw (in Dutch) the point was made that pet's are a luxury item.

"Poor people shouldn't have Pet's!" This seems such a heartless point of view that it makes me wonder. These are pet's that have often been with the family (and have become part of the family) for years. My own cat has been with me longer than any partner I've ever had. Even when I didn't have any money, the first thing I'd buy from what little I made I'd buy cat-food. My cat never went without, even when at times I did have to skip a meal.

We get to choose what kind of world we want to create with each other. We get to choose wheter we want our children to grow up with the knowledge that they are cared for and loved, no matter what. We set the tone by what we are willing to do to our animals. I hope my girlfriends project succeeds and results in a massive movement to have the pet's of the poor vaccinated in all of Holland. I'm rooting for her and all the cute little kittens and puppies!

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