It’s the holiday season and all through the house the anticipation was great as Santa approached with gifts for all little girls and boys. But wait, down the chimney came not Santa but Santa Paws for all the little four-legged girls and boys. You see Santa and his pal Santa Paws recognize that four-legged children are worthy of receiving love and gifts too.
We bring this to your attention because of a remark in a recent Orlando Sentinel commentary that talks about people in need of food. That is a noble cause and one we should all pay heed to not only during the holidays, but in helping our fellow citizens all year round. If the commentary had only talked about this need it wouldn’t enjoin us to respond, but as has been addressed in this column before is it really necessary to set up an animal versus human scenario when making decisions on charitable or gift giving? When are we going to understand that many people recognize that “kids” are both two-legged and four-legged without the need to criticize one over the other?
The commentary takes issue with pet owners spending lavishly on their dogs and cats while people suffer in the midst of today’s continued economic crisis. In reference to an annual survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), this data is cited: “Pet owners acknowledge spending about $40 annually for gifts, excluding food treats, for their dogs and about $19 annually for the same for cats. Throw in the fact that there are 77.5 million pet dogs in the U.S. and 93.6 million cats, and you’ve got the mother of all squeaky toy businesses.”
The commentator seems to find fault with herself for spoiling her “only dog” and with others for buying trendy and ultimate gifts for their pets when people go hungry in this country. “Apply a little palm-sweating math using the association’s figures, and it’s easy to learn that Lake County [Florida] residents, if their habits mirror those of the rest of the country’s pet owners, spent an incredible $4.9 million a year on just gifts for dogs and cats — and they’ll shell out much of it in the holiday season . . . Are you still wondering why hostile Third World countries think America is a bunch of daft, overweight softies with the moral fiber of a banana? Sugar-cookie spritz for dogs? Really?”
Is it really necessary to attack the pet industry and pet owners to make your point about caring for the homeless and hunger in America? This is NOT a people versus pets issue, but by criticizing individual spending habits concerning pets the commentator is making it one. “It’s easy to do because the average price of a pet “gift” is $9, the association says. But its estimate of what people spend on dog gifts ought to make an owner think twice. How might Lake change if that $4.9 million in pet gifts went to buy food for hungry humans, for example?”
Why single out pet owners? If you want to make this argument, let’s delve into the amount of money people spend on toys, perfumes, clothes, shoes and other gifts for two-legged children and adults. Have you seen the multitude of gift catalogs that arrive in your mailbox each holiday season, and often throughout the year, with fanciful offerings for people of all ages? We bet you might find that figure even more staggering. How might Lake change if those dollars went to buy food for hungry humans instead?
Speaking of pets, how might Lake change if those dollars went to buy food and resources for homeless animals who might otherwise be euthanized or left to fend for their own survival? This same commentator ran a series of stories on 61 Chihuahuas seized earlier this month by Lake County Animal Control with the majority of them going to three rescue organizations. What a boost it would be for these rescue organizations if the dollars spent on often frivolous gifts for people went to help them care for these and the countless number of other animals they rescue.
What a boost it would be for those who can’t afford veterinary care if those dollars went to save an animal’s life or provided for preventive care. While some may consider it going to the extreme, the Orlando Sentinel reports that one dog named Potter in Central Florida diagnosed with cancer may be getting “. . . a costly and relatively new procedure — a canine bone-marrow transplant — from one of the few veterinary hospitals offering the treatment.”
Looking at a bill of about $20,000, Albert and Rebecca Gibson have started a website to record “. . . their pet’s battle and accept donations to help pay for the transplant. Some of their acquaintances think they are crazy for shelling out that much for a dog.”
However, true animal people understand how much these four-legged kids mean to them. “We are married, but we don’t want kids. The dog is our kid. You spend twice, three times as much [on children],” said Rebecca. This may be an extreme example, but it highlights how much of a bond exists between humans and their four-legged kids.
It is tiring to constantly hear that same old argument that somehow pits spending on pets against the interests of the human species. Perhaps we should just stop buying gifts for everyone, two and four-legged alike, cancel the retail aspect of the holidays, and send those dollars exclusively to charitable causes for animals and humans alike. However, there is the consideration of even more jobs lost for people who work in industries from which gift items are produced. It’s a trickle-down effect of sorts with serious consequences when those jobs are lost or new jobs are not developed.
The point is the spending habits of people in a free society are a matter of personal choice. There is a certain joy in watching your “spoiled” pet play with his new toy or a human loved one opening a special gift. Of course, this is not to diminish the seriousness of the homeless (human or animal) and those struggling to find food and survive. Let’s all reach out to those in need and help as we can, but how about we stop making this about one species favored over another. There’s room in our hearts for all those who need hope to reach another day whether they’re a human family or a pet looking for their forever home.
On a final note, we really don’t want to hear anymore about Michael Vick and his so-called rehabilitation. Now that he is a revived football hero, Mr. Vick is starting to feel his swagger return. Despite reports (The Petition Site) “. . . of unspeakable abuse like hanging under-performing dogs and electrocuting them in his swimming pool”, Vick now has said he wants to own a dog again. It “. . . would be another ‘big step’ in his rehabilitation process.”
We can argue whether people can change or whether The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) made the right decision to enlist him in their End Dogfighting campaign, but we can never reconcile with the facts of the dogs he tortured and killed.
Perhaps one of the comments to The Petition Site sums up what many of us are feeling. It states, “Shame on you Michael Vick for even suggesting you should ever be allowed to be a pet owner. I have yet to believe you have any remorse for your actions and I believe if you hadn’t of been reported, you would still be doing it. I was very disappointed in the Humane Society for embracing you as they did. I wish you no ill luck, but you shouldn’t be allowed to have any animal in your care. I will never support that no matter what you say to convince the public you are reformed. Because you are a talented athlete doesn’t entitle you to the tender loving care it takes to be a pet owner. You have proven you are not worthy of such an honor.”
Amen, enough said.