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Everyone Deserves A Pet

What I’m about to say, is seen by some, as controversial. I believe that anyone and everyone, so long as they can provide a loving and stable home, deserves the right to own a pet. Even those who struggle with the challenges that pet poverty throws at them.

I will explain why I take this view. You may remember that I introduced the concept of pet poverty in my last blog on this subject but as a recap, it is the inability for a pet owner to be able to afford to provide sufficient food and/or veterinary care for their pet. But back to that controversial point for a moment. I believe that pet ownership is one of the greatest joys that we can experience, the care and love for another being who will devote their energy, loyalty and purest of loves back at you. We get an unconditional friendship from our pets that some struggle to find with other people and I firmly believe that a large part of this is down to the fact that pets don’t judge us. They don’t offer pep talks; they don’t look down on us when we’re wearing our PJ’s past 11am and there is no such thing as ‘morning breath’ problems to a pet. The simple interaction of being loved with no disregard and with zero judgement to boot is a heady height of happiness in my opinion. But owning a pet is a part of life and life can be messy, complicated and often out of our control. The reasons that many fall into pet poverty are not of their own making, the challenges of life that come in the form of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, domestic abuse, addiction or poor mental health.

The reality is that pet poverty can affect anyone at any time, and it could happen to you. I’ve spoken to so many people who have simply been made redundant, became unwell and ran out of sick pay or have found themselves in a set of circumstances that have slowly led them to a point of crisis. The guilt of not being able to provide for your pet what they need is one that will chew away at your insides, after all they give so much to you. However, from my experience pets who are separated from loving owners, who might just be experiencing a rough moment or two in their lives, don’t just spring back and forget about them. Some of the worst situations are when you see them pine for the owner who they loved beyond measure. It isn’t the memory of not being fed the right food or not being taken to the vet that makes them cry for them, it’s the memory of the love lost.
If those in crisis and have lost this love and stability, which is a huge part of their wellbeing, then that community is weaker for it. If that pet isn’t by their side providing companionship and unconditional love, it will take longer for that person to climb their way out of crisis. There is a way to be able to keep pets in loving homes and it’s by acknowledging and addressing pet poverty problems. It’s by ensuring that when someone needs that help, they can access pet food and veterinary care, for the time that they need that support.

I talked about dignity in the last blog, and I feel strongly that the presence of dignity is a critical part of someone being able to recover from their crisis situation, whatever that might be and whatever the reasons that have caused it. The dignity to get support without judgement when its needed, the dignity of not losing any more in their life than they have already and the dignity to move forward and recover aren’t things people should just hope for but should be able to expect. Understanding that pet poverty is a part of this complex picture is key to those who need help accessing it.

A final word on that controversial topic, when I say I believe that anyone and everyone, so long as they can provide a loving and stable home, deserves the right to own a pet, the emphasis is on stable and loving. Some homes just aren’t, and that means taking a pet out of that environment and giving it a second chance for love and happiness. But I want to make it clear that the challenges of those experiencing pet poverty aren’t inextricably linked to the mistreatment and poor care of pets. Anyone from any background or circumstances can take poor care of their pet leaving them vulnerable, unstable and unhappy.

I have witnessed homes where pet poverty most clearly wasn’t a challenge and the care and love most certainly wasn’t there either. The ups and downs of life don’t skip the ‘good postcodes’ and this goes back to my point that pet poverty can affect anyone, at any time. It’s part of a set of societal issues, that now more than ever, are hurting people and their pets. Societal issues that can be addressed and focused on so that not only can people be lifted out of the challenges they are facing but can keep their pets with them. Let’s work to avoid the final indignity of losing a beloved pet, so that we can all prosper and build a better future together.

Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine

CEO

Lindsay is CEO at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, having previously held the role of Director of Operations and Deputy to the CEO. She has extensive past experience in the humanitarian and animal welfare sectors, working across security, international disaster management and operations.

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