May 22, 2013
On the subject of how much money we spend on our pets, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published “‘Tails’ from the Consumer Expenditure Survey” on its website and the Hartford Courant breaks down the information:
The average amount each household spent on pets in 2011 was $502.
Households tended to spend 1 percent of income, no matter how much or how little they earned.
The release tracked spending from 2007 to 2011, and it didn’t show any trends of households trading down to cheaper food brands during the recession, or surrendering dogs due to foreclosure.
Additional tidbits from the government:
In 2011, households spent more on their pets annually than they spent on alcohol ($456), residential landline phone bills ($381), or men and boys clothing ($404).
Average household spending on pet food alone was $183 in 2011. This was more than the amount spent on candy ($87), bread ($107), chicken ($124), cereal ($175), or reading materials ($115).
Even when spending at restaurants dropped during the recent recession (December 2007–June 2009), spending on pet food stayed constant.
From 2007 to 2011, spending on pets stayed close to 1 percent of total expenditures per household, despite the recession that occurred during this time.
The main takeaways for me:
Shelters and rescues that discriminate against poor people who want to adopt pets based on the assumption that middle/upper class adopters will spend a greater portion of their income on the pet are not only behaving unethically, their assumption is baseless. Poor people spend about 1% of their income on their pets, just like other pet owners. While it’s true poor people have less to spend overall, it’s noteworthy that everyone is on the same level when percentages are calculated. In other words, those who can afford to spend more generously on their pets, don’t.
The survey did not find any increase in surrendering dogs (presumably to shelters) due to foreclosure. This “increased surrenders due to foreclosures” is a claim I’ve heard countless times in recent years from shelters all over the country. Is there a disconnect here?
The recession does not appear to have impacted pet expenditures. To my mind, there is a simple explanation for that: Pets are family.
I know the “Dogs do not have the enzymes needed to digest grains!!!!!!!!!111!!!11″ camp had to be hatin’ this study which found that dogs’ digestive systems evolved over time to better allow them to digest starchy food. Now there’s more bad news: another study has found the same thing:
The team then compared corresponding genes in dogs and humans. They found both species underwent similar changes in genes responsible for digestion and metabolism, such as genes that code for cholesterol transport. Those changes could be due to a dramatic change in the proportion of animal versus plant-based foods that occurred in both at around the same time, the researchers said.
Basically, as humans evolved and their diet included more plants, so did dogs who were hanging around humans, eating their “table scraps”. I know this does not fit the “Your dog is a wolf” narrative that has gained such a vocal following among food wonks but there it is.
I don’t intend to advise anyone who is satisfied with their feeding plan to alter it. If it works for you and your dog, paws up. I do consider it ignorant bullying when people of the OhNozGrainz persuasion drop in on every food discussion thread they come across and decry the feeding choices of others with no acknowledgement of the emerging science. Please don’t engage in that type of behavior here. (Not that this will slow anyone down, since they won’t even read it because they are too busy typing ALL GRAINS ALL BAD in the comments, but it seemed like a polite word of warning.)
April 4, 2013
Many pet killing facilities in this country are enabled by caring volunteers and rescuers who buy into the Save a Few, Kill the Rest business model. How it works: The pet killing facility allows members of the public to care for, network and rescue certain pets so long as the public plays by its rules. The rest of the pets are killed. The rules that must be obeyed typically center around silence on the part of the enablers – no speaking to the media or posting online about the truth of what goes on at the shelter.
How do compassionate people stand by silently while healthy/treatable pets are being killed all around them? It a two-pronged attack – one from without and the other from within. The pet killing facility tells the rescuers and volunteers:
- We’re not monsters. No one here wants to kill pets. We’re animal lovers, just like you.
- It’s the public’s fault that we have to kill pets. With the exception of you guys, the rest of the public is irresponsible and uncaring.
- We’re all on the same team. But if you speak to the media about what goes on here, people might get the wrong impression and stop donating. That will only hurt the animals.
The rescuers and volunteers carry the weight from there and tell themselves:
- If I publicly tell the truth about what happens at the shelter, I won’t be allowed to walk dogs/foster kittens/rescue pets any longer and then the animals will have no one to be kind to them because the people here are monsters.
- The people here aren’t monsters. They only kill pets because the irresponsible public forces them to do it. I am a member of the public and so are all the networkers, adopters, fosters, donors, rescuers, volunteers and transporters that I know. Before we got involved with the shelter, we were all just regular pet owners. I guess I and everyone I know are all exceptions. Yes, that must be right because only uncaring people would surrender their pets to these monsters.
- The people here aren’t monsters. After all, they are allowing me to save a few of the pets. And saving a few is better than saving none so I am going to keep my mouth shut and play by their rules in order to maintain my privileges. If I don’t, they might kill Fluffy, whom I’ve been working on getting into rescue for 2 weeks, in retaliation. I can’t risk these monsters killing Fluffy.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? This is how our broken shelter system’s status quo of Save a Few, Kill the Rest is maintained. The monsters sell it and the compassionate public buys it. If you buy it, there will always be a place for you at your local pet killing facility. Because there will always be a Fluffy. They will dangle a Fluffy in front of your face forever and taunt you with their power of life and death.
If however you decide to empower yourself to be free from this mindset, to put the responsibility for Fluffy’s protection on those paid to protect her, and to stand up for what you know in your heart is right – that ALL SHELTER PETS HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE – let me know. I’ll stand by you.
We don’t have to accept saving just a few. We can save them all. As compassionate pet advocates, we must reject the myths of pet overpopulation and the “irresponsible public” that have been put forth in an attempt to justify needless killing. It is our duty to publicly condemn the notion that saving shelter pets is a “privilege” which directors extend only to those who play ball. We must organize, not to enable more killing by keeping quiet, but to garner legislative support for the Companion Animal Protection Act to protect pets from monsters.
Take back your power. Giving it up was a tragic mistake but one that can be made right – unlike killing. Save them all, kill the excuses.
The city of Rockwood, TN recently enacted what sounds like a terrible anti-pet ordinance. I wanted to read the actual ordinance but was unable to find it online so had to rely on the summary provided by an area news outlet:
Pet owners and advocates in Rockwood said they are upset over a new city ordinance that limits the number of animals they can have to five, and allows animal control to trap feral cats and stray cats, and euthanize them after three days.
The local news spoke to a woman who cares for 11 cats, seven of whom are feral. She has trapped, neutered and vaccinated all but 2 of the ferals already. But under the ordinance, she will have to choose which ones she wants to live (up to 5 total) and even then, the feral cats she cares for will still be at risk for being trapped and impounded by AC. The only way for a Rockwood resident to own more than 5 pets is to obtain a kennel license and keep the animals on property in a commercial zone. She told the news she is going to move out of the city.
“Our goal is not going out and trying to roundup all the cats in Rockwood,” said [Mayor James] Watts. “I hope people don’t think the city of Rockwood is an animal hater. We’re not. We’re trying to put the responsibility back on the citizens.”
The city of Rockwood should be trapping, neutering, vaccinating and returning feral cats. They aren’t. Instead private citizens are doing it for them. Now the city wants to punish them and kill their cats. This is putting the “responsibility back on the citizens”?
Watts reassured people who take care of their animals properly would not be targeted.
Really? How can the mayor possibly reassure anyone of that? The lady with 11 cats is taking care of her animals properly but she would be targeted under the ordinance. As will any cat who walks into a trap set by AC, regardless of who owns or feeds him. Traps don’t know whose cats to target.
Punitive legislation doesn’t work. I hope the citizens of Rockwood demand that the city abolishes this anti-pet ordinance.
(Thank you Peter M. for the link.)
March 1, 2013
If the black dog in this video clip ended up at your local shelter, what would you guess would happen?
This dog did not end up at a shelter in real life. He is a much loved pet who is adored by an entire town. Read the beautiful story here.
(Thanks Arlene for sending me this link.)
February 24, 2013
I had tears in my eyes from laughing along with the babies. I would note that these clips are all cases where the interaction between baby and dog was closely supervised by the camera holder (presumably the parent) so I hope no one is going to complain about the babies being in grave danger. I also note how gentle the dogs are in every single clip which is lovely to see. Pets are family.
February 17, 2013
A reader who visited the Memphis pound this month was waiting in the lobby when she saw a senior citizen holding a small dog with grey around the muzzle at the payment window. The man was telling the MAS employee, “But I don’t have the money, I don’t get my check until the end of the month.” The woman approached the man to ask him what was going on.
The gentleman explained that his dog has escaped his home and been picked up by a Memphis ACO. He said he called MAS to ask about reclaiming his dog and was told to come on down and get him. When he got there, they gave him his dog and sent him to the payment window. When he got to the window, he was told there was a $55 redemption fee. He said no one had told him of the $55 fee previously and, since he was a disabled veteran, he could not afford to pay until his check arrived at the end of the month. The owner had tears in his eyes. MAS did not offer any type of payment plan or alternative way for the dog to go home with the owner.
The woman offered to pay the fee but MAS refused to accept her check, saying that the name on the check did not match the name of the owner. She then offered a credit card and they took her money. The woman wrote to me:
The man was very grateful and asked me for my name and address and said he would reimburse me when he got his check. I told him how much I appreciated him serving our country and this was the least I could do. He then said, “You know, my dog is my only friend. I don’t know what I would do without him.” I gave him my phone number and asked that he stay in touch with me and told him we would be friends.
Pet killing facility employees and enablers often tell us the so-called irresponsible public is to blame for the killing of shelter animals. They claim they are doing the best they can and that no one wants to kill shelter pets. In this case, the dog in the pound had an owner who came there to take him home. He just couldn’t afford the redemption fee on that day. Why would MAS, or any pet killing facility, want to prevent sending a dog out alive, back to his permanent home over a matter of money? Do they really want dogs like this to take up cage space at the pound and possibly get sick? Do they want to break up a family over $55? Would MAS have held the dog until the end of the month and not killed him after the 5 day mandatory hold expired like they do so many others? And if they did hold the dog, what would the redemption fees have amounted to by then?
And yet it is the irresponsible public who came through for this dog – the owner coming to the pound to immediately reclaim his lost pet and the good Samaritan offering to pay the ransom. Ordinary people did the right thing here. Because the pet killing facility wouldn’t. Thank you irresponsible public, once again.
Animal services=family services. Any questions?
Zach Gentile, a high school student in Revere, lost his dog Emily on December 19 when his mother accidentally let her out unattended. He searched the neighborhood for many hours but couldn’t find his beloved pet of nine years. The next day, he called Lisa Cutting whose kennel is contracted by the city to house stray pets. Ms. Cutting advised the young man that police had received a call from a man who reported finding Emily, but the dispatcher didn’t bother getting the man’s name or phone number.
Mr. Gentile called the police himself. They told him to call the city’s ACO, which he did. But no one has helped him. He has continued to search on his own and to put up fliers in the area.
Ms. Cutting spoke to the city council a year ago about the numerous failures involving lost and stray pets in Revere. She told the council that healthy, owned pets who had been picked up after getting lost from their homes have been killed by the city due to the lack of police communication with the owners. Nothing has apparently improved in the past year although when confronted with the Emily story by the local newspaper, the police threw them a bone:
Revere Police, upon learning more about the situation, told the Journal that they are revisiting the idea of making a clear policy for lost or abandoned animals – a problem they were told of more than a year ago by Cutting.
While they are revisiting the idea of having a policy, maybe they could help Mr. Gentile look for Emily. Pets are family. Animal services=family services. How sad it is that the Revere police need a written protocol to tell them that when someone calls in to report finding a lost family member, they need to do better than meh.
(Thank you Anne L. for sending me this link.)
January 23, 2013
Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011. In this post, I am going to look at some of the survey results indicative of why people want to adopt, where they are getting their pets and why more people aren’t getting them from rescues/shelters.
Unsurprisingly, the reason most people want to adopt is to rescue a pet. (pages 18 – 20) And yet we see so many invasive and outrageous adoption requirements from rescues and shelters, purportedly because they feel obligated to protect pets from dogfighters, hoarders, and animal abusers. Put another way, the study found that most adopters are driven by compassion. Shouldn’t we operate on the assumption that all applicants are kind-hearted unless we find out differently?
Some rescues and shelters are driving potential adopters away. Where are people getting pets instead? (page 11) The primary source for cats is the neighborhood. More cat owners acquired their most recent pet as a stray than any other source. More dog owners got their last dog from a family member or friend. What ties these sources together? The adoption process is super easy, there are no up front costs to obtain the pet, and in the case of stray cats, the adopter feels they are rescuing the pet.
About 25% of recent pet owners surveyed for the study researched online before acquiring a pet. (page 12) Shelters and rescues should ask themselves:
- Is our website user friendly and up to date?
- Are our photos and bios of available pets uplifting?
- Do we have a contact e-mail easily visible on the site and are we checking it regularly and replying promptly to inquiries?
Regarding perceptions of the local pound (page 16):
- 38% of respondents believe the facility has limited hours – This is an easy fix.
- 44% believe the pound is against animal cruelty – Wow, the fact that this isn’t close to 100% should be a wake up call for animal control units.
- 23% think the pets there are well cared for – I interpret this to indicate that most people believe pets are being neglected, abused or otherwise subjected to substandard treatment at their local pound.
- 32% flat out don’t want to visit the pound because it’s too depressing – No kidding.
There is a lot of useful information here for rescues and shelters. Remember that the math shows us we only need to increase adoptions of shelter pets by a little bit nationwide in order to get every healthy/treatable animal into a home. It seems like many of our rescues and shelters could do a little bit better simply by applying the Petsmart Charities research to their marketing and protocols.
December 25, 2012
And thanks for all you guys do. All of you – your activism, your compassion and your love for animals – are my inspiration. Merry Christmas everyone.