Thursday, September 29, 2011
The two-cent solution
The lead pill cure isn't one either the Y.D. or I would consider for one of our pets unless the beast was clearly suffering and euthanasia was justified, but it occurred to me that if I wasn't working for Large Nameless Agency, Cleo's options would be much more limited. What would have happened if, after looking the cat over and doing the lab work, the veterinarian handed me the bill and I couldn't pay it? For that matter, would I have brought her to the veterinarian at all? I knew walking in the clinic door that I was about to drop at least $100 because they were going to have to do lab work of some sort. I can see where if my budget was tighter, I would have worried about her -- why is she drinking all that water? And what's with the polyuria? -- but unless she acted a lot sicker, I would have just waited and hoped that whatever was wrong would cure itself on its own.
In short, I would have treated the cat the same way I would have treated myself back in the days when the budget was a lot tighter and I didn't have health insurance. I would have waited and worried and hoped that whatever the problem was went away on its own. People who can't afford to take care of themselves sure as heck can't afford medical care for their pets -- which is another one of those hidden costs of poverty that most of us never think about. Things that the comfortable middle class (assuming such a thing still exists) take for granted, like the ability of your kids or yourself to have pets, become unaffordable luxuries when your income drops. Not only does the companion animal itself cost money (food, various supplies like collars, leashes, litterboxes, etc.), the lower your income is, the harder it becomes to find a place to live that will allow you to have one. One of the side effects of the economy tanking and foreclosures climbing was that animal shelters became overloaded with abandoned pets as people made the disheartening discovery that when they went from being homeowners to tenants, there were no rentals available that would allow them to keep the family dog.
In the larger scheme of things, when people are worried about keeping a roof over their heads or managing to feed the family for another month, I suppose thinking about poverty being a barrier to pet ownership is rather trivial. On the other hand, considering the numerous well-known benefits, both psychological and physical, of having companion animals, it is a shame that pets are just one more thing that poor people aren't supposed to have.