I don’t talk about classism a lot, but I should. I grew up working class poor, technically under the poverty line, but thanks to my parents, I have never gone hungry. I have always had a place to live, because my parents bought our current house from my mother’s parents. I am exceeding lucky, even without the benefits of being middle class or above. I grew up and currently live in a dying mill town and I know that people aren’t poor because they just don’t try hard enough.
I also know that poor people love their companion animals just as much as anyone else. Rehoming a pet “just” for moving often isn’t a sign of someone who just doesn’t care, it’s a sign of being unable to find affordable housing that even allows pets. Even them, when you’re living, month to month, week to week, day to day, where does one get the money for a pet deposit? It’s all well and good to get a deposit waived because of a CGC award or the pet being an emotional support animal, but how many people even aware of the CGC? Even if someone knows about it and can find the time, money and transportation to have their dog tested, there are plenty of dogs that make perfectly lovely pets that will never pass, even with the time investment of training. As for the ESA and service dog waivers, even if one has regular enough medical care to get one, plenty of landlords are fine with ignoring the Fair Housing Act. How much fun is it going to be to deal with landlord that’s pissed at you for calling the authorities on them? Yeah, some are reasonable after having things explained, but there is aways that risk. When you’re courting homelessness for not only your self, but maybe your kids too, it isn’t exactly a free choice. I’m not saying dropping pets off at shelters is a good thing, but painting these people as monsters does little to help shelter pets.
I know most people want what’s best for their pets, even if they aren’t aware of better. My parents fed Pedigree to our first dog because they were under the impression it was the best food out there. Plenty of people feeding Alpo and such don’t realize how substandard these foods are. I know I didn’t, not until I started researching dog care and training. Just as many, many people purchase pet store puppies thinking they are saving them, or that they come from local breeders, many people purchase substandard dog foods thinking they’re fine. Even so, someone may know the dog food isn’t that great, but as they’re eating substandard food themselves, they aren’t in much of a position to do anything about it. I am exceeding lucky to be receiving enough money that Figaro eats a rotation of some of the best foods available. However, if my parents weren’t willing to be paid only 30% of my income for rent,along with paying the internet and the majority of my meals, along with transportation, things wouldn’t be so nice. Things are less nice for whole lot of people. I simply can’t imagine dealing with having children, a job I needed to travel to, no health insurance and/or more out of pocket expenses. Actually, I can imagine and things would be much more dire.
I’ve often heard it said that if you can’t afford vet care, you shouldn’t have a dog. While I would say getting a dog isn’t ideal, plenty of pets are living with people who can’t even afford healthcare for themselves. Carecredit is a wonderful thing, if you have the credit to get it, but it doesn’t cure all problems. Some of the numbers I’ve seen thrown out for what people should have saved up are more than I receive in a year. Another factor is that for many kinds of assistance, you can’t a lot of money saved up. I’ve managed to build a little nest egg, but I understand why having money saved up is actually an issue for many people, not just matter of buying coffee too often or whatever examples get brought up in conversations. Just as will more expensive dog food, actually finding that sum of money, even if it is cheaper in the long run is still an issue. As Terry Pratchett wrote in Men at Arms:
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
Now, to be clear, animal abuse and neglect are never okay, but they aren’t exclusive to the poor. Drive around in any nice suburb and you’ll find dogs as glorified lawn ornaments, locked in Landry and basements rooms for 12 hours a day and left in backyards with a lack of human interaction, training or anything to do. I understand it’s easier to look at the poor and scoff, especially while being surrounded by the welfare hatred and classism that is rampant in the US , but I truly don’t believe it’s helping. I think it’s completely possible to support and work on animal welfare without reinforcing the kyriarchy. Not only is it unnecessary, and if the oppression angle isn’t enough for one to care, it’s alienating. I’m not saying one needs to leave animal welfare behind, just put a bit more thought into the dialog and work surrounding our goals. That’s all.
1. My service dog
2. The National Low Income Housing Coalition defines affordable housing in the US by a cost of less than 30% of the household income.
3. I can’t really speak on the climate in other countries.