Today was a rough, rough day. I would go so far as to call it “grim.” I have had a rant building up inside me for several days now, and I can’t hold it in any longer. I know what I’m about to discuss will be upsetting for some, but I can’t stay quiet about this.
We have had an ongoing situation with one of our cats, the one I like to call Whiny Pants (not her real name). We have had her since birth—she and her brother Ginger Pants are the offspring of our other cat, Eppie (or Fluffy Pants). Whiny developed a skin irritation a few years ago. At first it didn’t seem serious. She had these little lesions but they were small. Then she started scratching them and they got bigger.
Over the last few years, her skin issues have got better and worse, but mostly worse. We did take her to the vet on one occasion and he opined that she might be having an allergic reaction to flea bites. The problem was that every time we tried a flea treatment on her, she got worse. So she was reacting both to fleas and to any effort to eradicate them.
The last few months have been horrible. Big sections of her fur fell out. She had multiple lesions, and they often oozed or bled. No one wanted her anywhere near them. No one wanted to touch her. She had no quality of life. We knew we couldn’t afford to take her to the vet and pay hundreds of dollars to get her treated. We can’t even afford to go to the doctor ourselves!
Things came to a head the other day when it was time to give the cats their flea baths, as we are currently trying to stamp out whatever fleas may be lurking. No one was willing to handle Whiny Pants. She hates getting bathed, and I don’t blame her. I’m sure the flea shampoo and warm water are very painful on her lesions, so she defends herself vigorously. Whoever is trying to bathe her ends up getting injured.
So, we reluctantly came to the decision that the kindest thing would be to have her euthanized. We couldn’t afford treatment for her, and we couldn’t bear to watch her continue to suffer.
This is where things became truly traumatic, for me at least. Our town no longer has a Humane Society or shelter where you can drop a pet off for free, so I called the vet we had taken Whiny Pants to a few years ago, and I asked about getting a pet euthanized.
What I got was a long argument with the employee who answered the phone. She wanted me to bring the cat in for an evaluation, followed by treatment if appropriate. She was not at all on board with the plan to euthanize the cat, and she argued strenuously against it. I tried to tell her that no argument in the world would put more money in my bank account, and no matter how amazing the vet might be, I can’t afford his services.
She ended up leaving me hanging by telling me she would discuss it with the vet. If he agreed to do it, it would cost $65 plus another $25 if we wanted them to dispose of the body. She also recommended that I look into the new shelter which replaced the Humane Society a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, we had to keep the cat isolated from the other two who had been given their flea baths.
This morning, when I didn’t hear back from the vet’s office, I started researching all the shelters in the area. None of them lets you drop off a pet for free anymore. They brag about how humane they are and about how they don’t euthanize any pets.
I don’t think these well-meaning entities have thought through their policies using basic logic. If someone (for whatever reason) is no longer able to keep a pet, and if that someone is also low-income, they are not going to drop their pet off at one of these gleaming facilities and pay them $100 for the privilege. If they are truly desperate, they will drive a few miles away and just leave the pet on the side of the road.
I now understand why people do this or why they drown their pets in ponds. For a couple of hours today, that truly was looking like our only option. It made a miserable situation even more traumatic for me. Tears were shed. I felt sick to my stomach. The vet’s office called back and told me they flat out refused to euthanize the cat. After doing a little more research, we put her in a box and I drove her over to the new shelter. Since I am within their very specific territory, I was allowed to drop the cat off for $50 instead of $100. Had I asked to have her euthanized, it would have cost $65. So instead, I relinquished my rights to her and they will decide what her fate will be. I honestly hope they can help her and that they won’t have to euthanize her.
But this whole experience has made me very angry. I think the current situation with local shelters will lead to more animals being abandoned, not fewer. More animals will suffer needlessly because their desperate owners can’t afford the fees to take them to a shelter, let alone a veterinarian.
I know, those of you who think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars a year on veterinary care are thinking, “Well, poor people have no business owning pets. Period.” Maybe you’re right. But first of all, you can’t stop people from falling in love with an adorable puppy or kitten and taking it home. And I hate to think of the kids who would grow up in pet-free homes and never develop that bond with animals or know the joy of having a furry friend. There were a couple of periods in my life when I felt my cat was all I had. Kids who grow up without pets often become adults who think all animals are nasty, and I feel bad for them too.
I just think there has to be some way that someone who is low-income can take their pet somewhere when they are no longer able to care for it. Somewhere other than a lonely country road.