Monday, April 09, 2007

Animal House

"New Tricks" Charles Seibert's sobering piece about animal shelters in this week's New York Times Magazine comes as a welcome counterpoint to their cover story two months ago on posh animal breeding. If you are interested in animal welfare, nature, massive cultural change or human psychology, check it out. The ending is beautiful, even if one of the accompanying photos is completely unexpected and heartbreaking.

Seibert does a good job describing the state of domestic animals in the United States, many of whom are given up when owners lose interest or don't want to work to correct common behavioral issues. The only factor he leaves out is the role of money --even if they're cheap to acquire, dogs can be expensive to maintain, indimidatingly so. Last week at Animal Care and Control of New York City Betty encountered a sweet little chihuahua whose Bronx-dwelling owners had taken her to the vet, were told she had a rash that required they purchase some perscription cream, and gave her up that same day. It happens.

Is there a solution to this problem? I realize that human health and welfare is a priority that comes before that of animals, but why can't we prioritize both? I posit that animals play a huge role in enhancing human health and welfare, and programs like Puppies Behind Bars and hospital visitation programs with animals are a testament to this, as are snuggly little bedbugs like Co [pictured].

Is more funding for animal shelters the thing? On a municipal level, yes. But what about health insurance that extends to pets? It may sound excessive, but its effect would be just the opposite, serving to actually curb the excess of unwanted pets dying in shelters. It would also allow many more people to keep, or just consider keeping, a live-in animal friend. Now let's get those people health insurance, and go from there.

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