I’ll be the first to confess -– I love cool pet gadgets, including pet fountains, grooming tools, and interactive toys. Walk into any pet store or pet section at a market and you’ll see hundreds of various toys and treats and collars in every color lining the shelves. You can’t just walk into a pet store and say, “I want a collar.” You need to know what kind of collar you want. Do you want a specific color? Leather, nylon, chain, or braided rope? Buckle, clip, or martingale? Plain, reflective, embroidered, or rhinestone?
It’s wonderful to have choices –- it means we can get something that looks good on our dog or suits specific needs. However, all of these choices — the consumerism of it all — might have a negative undercurrent. It could be discouraging potential adopters.
With modern insight into dog health care and nutrition, we’ve learned how to imitate the raw diets of our domestic dogs’ predecessors. Grain-free foods and other specialty foods have hit the shelves. We’ve seen advancements in flea/tick prevention, heartworm prevention and treatment, and geriatric care. Water bowls have been replaced by flowing fountains, ranging from simple plastic ones to extravagant hand-carved stone creations. Doggy daycares are flourishing, and your dog can go to a doggie spa instead of just a regular ol’ groomer. There are dog beds on the market that sport more foam and support than my own mattress and box springs set.
While it’s absolutely wonderful that we have all of these advancements in dog care and a wealth of gadgets and doo-dads to choose from to spoil our beloved dogs, I fear we’re leaving a vast amount of the population out.
I’ve volunteered at several adoption events with my local humane society, and besides the usual “I already have five dogs” population, there were many who looked longingly at the dogs but turned away because they couldn’t afford them. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the money for the adoption fee, it was that they didn’t have the money for “everything they needed” right then -– a bed, bowls, collars, leashes, etc.
I spoke with KC Theisen, director of Pet Care Issues with the Humane Society of the United States, to get her take on the effect of consumerism on adoption.
She agreed that we humans “love the newest, the latest thing in pet care … and it can be very tempting to try to keep up with the Joneses.” This approach to pet care can be a great barrier to adoption. Theisen said the HSUS currently has a program in place to help break down these barriers. Titled “Pets for Life,” this campaign aims to provide resources and information to under-served populations. These populations may also be lacking access to veterinary care or low-cost options in their area.
Pets for Life has centers in four cities, with 20 more mentor cities that work to bring much needed services to these communities, including health care, free or reduced-cost spay/neuter surgeries, food, and even collars and bowls. When the group entered many of these areas, it found many owners struggling to provide food and basic health care, dealing with dogs going into heat and males roaming. Up to 80 percent of the pet population was intact. By providing these resources, the group has turned that around to a 80 percent to 90 percent spay/neuter rate.
“Cost shouldn’t be a reason not to adopt a pet,” says Theisen. “Your dog will never judge you on the name brand of their bowl. That’s why we love pets so much — they don’t judge, they love us openly.”
We shouldn’t judge someone’s ability to care for their pet based on their income alone. Instead, we should work to become a resource for those in our communities who are struggling to provide the basics for their pets, and continue to offer support more often than judgment.
Has the cost of having a pet ever prevented or discouraged you from adopting a dog? Tell us your story in the comments!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.
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