DEAR READERS: I was saddened and disgusted by one letter I received asserting, "people who cannot afford to keep a pet shouldn't have one." People with companion animals are suffering across the country, unable to afford veterinary services or boarding fees in times of crisis, such as hospitalization or spousal abuse.
I am heartened by the veterinary profession's increasing involvement in this tricky situation, notably WisCARES, supported by the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, which I hope other veterinary schools will quickly follow. According to the Dec. 1 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are several resources being developed to help provide "street medicine" for animals in need. Sites such as petsofthehomeless.org and thestreetdogcoalition.org, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF.org/CARE), disburse donations to veterinary clinics that provide charitable care. There are also full-service veterinary hospitals, like Mission Animal Hospital in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, that have been established as nonprofit organizations to provide affordable care priced on a sliding scale according to each client's income. I have long advocated for this practice here in the United States after being impressed as a veterinary student with the long-established People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), which operates across the United Kingdom.
I also applaud the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, whose involvement in the welfare and care of lost, abandoned and relinquished companion animals has done so much to improve the well-being of animals in several municipal and private shelters across the U.S.
Every effort needs to be made to protect the human—animal bond; otherwise, the animals end up in shelters and are often euthanized while their grieving owners must deal with their losses.
DEAR DR. FOX: We're late in sending this response, but we felt it necessary. We're involved as volunteers at our church's food pantry, which serves 35 families weekly.
One year ago, a Girl Scout troop in our area of O'Fallon, Missouri, took on our food pantry as a community service project. They did not stock food for humans; instead, they supplied food for the pets of our food pantry clients. Our first response was, "Why do this for food pantry clients, when so few of them would even have pets due to a lack of money to take care of their medical needs?" Our next response was, "Even if only one client had a pet, that pet and owner deserve free food, as we know the animal is sometimes more than a pet -- it could be the client's best friend." As it is, several of our food pantry clients do have pets.
We are grateful for the Girl Scout troop; they opened another valuable mission for our food pantry clients, and our clients are most grateful. We have no provisions to help with the veterinary costs, but we can now provide food for the animals. Perhaps what happened to our food pantry through the generosity of the Girl Scout troop will motivate other organizations to do the same. -- B.A. & S.A., O'Fallon, Missouri
DEAR B. & S.A.: I hope your letter will inspire others in communities across the U.S. that are blighted by poverty, both financial and spiritual.
Being able to have, keep and love an animal companion can be a lifesaver for many, especially those living alone as well as the thousands of military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)