You may hear people say “people who need help from food banks shouldn’t have pets.” If you can’t afford to feed your animal/your kids/yourself you can’t afford a pet. Easy to say. You could, however, also say if you can’t afford to feed your kids, you shouldn’t have them.
You may have decided to have kids when things were going well in your life, you had a partner, you had a job, money. Then you lost the job, you lost your partner. You can’t afford to house or feed those kids properly anymore. What do you do with them then?
Depending on the age of your kids and how well behaved they are, you probably could find homes for them. You may not find one person to take them all, but if you split them up, you might find enough homes. If they’re too old, not cute enough or badly behaved, well, you could be in a pickle. Maybe in a year’s time you’ll have a new job and be back on your feet and can afford the kids again. But what do you do during that time?
This isn’t likely to happen, or be expected, for kids. There’s welfare and child benefits. There are food banks – aid that started within communities because governmental help often didn’t adequately meet the need to keep body and soul together.
What if they got a dog when they were doing well? Should they have to get rid of their pet? Where is that dog going to go if they do? Killing (“euthanasia”) is a legal option for getting rid of healthy happy pets, but not a desirable one. The pound? Shelters? At least maybe the animals live, but it’s a high emotional and financial cost for all involved.
Help from food banks for kids and pets
Then a year later when those people are back on track financially, what do they do then? Probably go out and get another dog. Why not help them keep that first dog during the bleak time? Anyone who ever had a pet – even a goldfish – as a child knows how important that animal was to their young life. So even if you don’t care about animals or about adults who can’t make ends meet, think, as they say, about the children. The trauma of losing a beloved pet in any way in childhood is never forgotten.
We don’t bat an eyelid at people needing help feeding their children. When we shop, we buy an extra can of tuna for the food bank bin. We enjoy making up parcels to donate to Christmas Care. We buy for toy drives and mitten trees. So why would we begrudge a family a can of cat food or a pack of dog treats?
As a whole, we believe it is in society’s best interests – politically, socially and financially – to keep families intact. Those families may well include pets – indeed maybe should.
Pets are more than extra mouths to feed. They provide comfort, therapy, exercise and a reason to greet the day. We, individually and as a society, owe them as much as they owe us.
Jobs and relationships can come and go, but the love of your dog or cat is steadfast. That is a lesson many of us learn as children. But some of us forget it. It’s worth remembering. So too, when thinking about someone needing help feeding their kids and pets, it’s worth remembering, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Sept. 23, 2011.