Too Poor for Pets

OC Transpo is re-visiting the idea of allowing pets on buses. Again. Lots of other cities allow this. Dogs have to be on leashes and cats have to be in carriers, but the drivers can use their discretion in certain cases – if the bus is too crowded for a big dog or if a pet seems too agitated or disruptive to be on board, for instance.

People in Ottawa have been very opposed to pets on the transit system for some reason. They worry about other people’s pet allergies and vicious animals and being squeezed out of their seats by packs of giant dogs.

If you ever ride transit systems in cities that allow pets, however, you hardly ever see any on board.  People don’t normally take their pets on bus rides just for fun. Usually pets are taken on buses just when there is no other way to get them to the vet.

Some people have pets, but don’t have cars and can’t afford a taxi and a vet on the same day. Ottawa has “pet taxis“, but, in my experience they’re a disaster.  Most of the time they just don’t show up — they say they’re too swamped with calls – but they don’t tell you that when you book them. And, they cost as much, if not more than regular cabs.

Regular cabs don’t like taking pets either. You have to give them a pound-by-pound account of the animal you intend to bring when you book the cab and then you get scowled at a lot by the driver when your pet makes a noise. Pet noises seem to disrupt the drivers’ cell phone conversations.

The pets-on-Ottawa-transit issue seems to come up annually. It’s always defeated. Evidently in Ottawa, only people with cars can have a pet.

Many people believe that poor people shouldn’t even have a pet. In some countries you can’t get social assistance if you have a pet. Vets also seem to believe that unless you’re quite wealthy you shouldn’t have a pet. I know they have to make a living, too, but wow it’s expensive to give your pet all the shots, treatments, preventative procedures, tests, surgeries, therapies and medicines the vet thinks they should have. Sometimes I think vets try to guilt you into things that aren’t completely necessary.

Then there are all the other extras – licenses, insurance, toys, grooming and grooming aids, pet care when you’re away, specialized foods, leashes, carriers, clothes, etc., etc.

Are pets luxury items now? Accessories for the elite? We always had animals when I was a kid and they roamed around the farm, ate table scraps and whatever they could hunt down outside.  They were neutered or spayed, but that’s usually the only time they ever saw a vet. Surprisingly, all our animals were happy and loved, lived to a ripe old age and never got sick.

How do lower income people afford to keep pets today? People get very huffy when they see panhandlers with pets, for instance.

Pets are good for people though. They provide companionship and unconditional love. They teach children responsibility and how to care for other living creatures. They provide protection for the vulnerable. 

There are a lot of animals in shelters. More than half of them will be euthanized. Meanwhile, there are probably people out there who would love to adopt one of them, but can’t afford the high price of pet ownership. And, of course, some of the pets are in the shelters in the first place because their people could no longer afford to care for them. Is there a solution?