If Nobody's Perfect
Then Why Do We Expect Pet Owners To Be?
Do we have the right to judge other pet owner's if they don't live up to what we deem to be "a good pet owner"?
What qualities must a person have to be deemed a "good pet owner"?
What does a model "good pet owner" look like to you?
Who decided what a model "good pet owner" looks like?
We hope you take some time to ponder the above questions, just as we have. But before you do, it would be a great idea to read the excerpts below regarding pet owners. We hope it gives you some insight.
Imagine for a moment that you are in a dire situation and your beloved pet is sick. You are handed a $3,000 bill at a veterinary e.r. (many of us already know the feeling and can empathize) but you don't have $3,000 sitting around. You try applying for CareCredit but are declined, have no family or friends who are able or willing to lend you money, and you’re about to lose your housing in the middle of winter (and most human shelters don’t allow pets). Shaming someone who is in an urgent situation — by telling them what you would do in a hypothetical situation — only makes the person asking for help feel even more distressed and hopeless about their options.
There is a person behind every pet and as pet owners we all start somewhere.
As far as judgment goes it doesn't tend to be very productive — and there’s a big difference between a genuine desire to educate, set an example, and maybe plant some seeds versus wanting to feel superior or unfairly gate-keep.
Every shelter animal is an individual and they all have a story but so do their owners.
It's easy to say, “if you can’t afford a pet you shouldn’t have one.” However, it’s not that simple, especially now in the age of COVID-19. There are many animals who are deeply loved by their families, but a family’s inability to afford veterinary treatment – especially emergency or surgical treatment — doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of love or attentive care. Nor does it imply that they are a “bad,” irresponsible or neglectful pet owner.
Not one single person is excused from the harsh realities life may throw at them from one day to the next. At any point in our lives things could take an unexpected turn. Doesn't that make us all potentially just one health issue, accident, job loss, or pandemic away from not being able to afford a large veterinary bill??
If you tend to heir more on the judgmental side next time you see someone needing to re-home a pet, or a social media post asking for help with veterinary care, try to stop and think about the type of reply you'd want to get if you found yourself in a similar situation.
Often times the people that have found themselves in a tough spot will reach out to generous strangers on social media for financial help but sometimes they have to make the heart wrenching decision to re-home or surrender their animal. Some people are supportive and sympathetic while others can be outright judgmental without evening knowing what that person might be facing in their life.
What if we assume that most pet owners are doing the best they can to care for their pets, instead of judging them as financially irresponsible when they have difficulty affording the cost of veterinary care?
After all, we don’t know their story. We tend to fill in the blanks with information that we simply don’t have, and the story we concoct in our minds is often negative and nowhere near the truth of the matter. Try instead to receive these pet owners’ stories with empathy, not condemnation. And if you don't know their story and want to try and understand and/or help ask them nicely if they would mind speaking about their troubles. You'd be surprised how many people may just need someone to listen to them or to talk too.
America's model of animal sheltering is severely flawed and we will never be able to adopt our way out of the pet overpopulation crisis. It's imperative we get down to root causes.
In conclusion, we hope you choose to spend less time being judgmental of struggling pet owners. If we band together as a community in order to develop sustainable solutions for people facing hardships (such as cost barriers to affordable veterinary care and low cost pet friendly housing) then one day shelter animals and the people working so hard to help them may finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.