By Carol Zeng
Providing proper medical care for pets has always been a challenge, but there has not been a conspicuous difference regarding this issue. According to the 2020 National Pet Owners survey, 67% percent of United States households own some type of pet. The number of cats totaled up to 94.2 million, and dogs were on their tail at 89.2 million living in household captivity. Unfortunately, not all of these animals are treated well, and with the average annual cost of owning a dog tallied up to $1,381, some may consider skipping a necessary health check-up. For some, providing all of the care is financially challenging, and for others, they have resorted to either giving their pet to a shelter or neglecting their care entirely. The mistreatment stems from several reasons, from financial struggle to being unable to find over-the-counter antibiotics.
Poverty has been a persistent problem in the United States. In December of 2020, a survey conducted in the United States showed that 13.7% of all households are below the poverty threshold. An estimated 19 million pets are living in households that fall under the poverty line, making it financially challenging for them to sustain their pet’s well-being as well as their own. According to ASPCA, approximately 6.3 million cats and dogs are sent to shelters every year, and almost one million of them are euthanized. Of the many reasons one may have to surrender their pet, money is high on the list. Not only do pet owners have to pay for daily food, treats, toys, and other bare-minimum requirements for owning a dog or cat, but they also have to pay for regular pet visits, which can take a toll on wallets.
Just like how food deserts are prevalent in impoverished areas, “veterinary deserts” also exist. They are very similar to food deserts because they have “entire neighborhoods with no veterinarians, no pet supply stores, no groomers, and no animal welfare infrastructure.” There is a distinct trend in areas with lower income to be associated with fewer vet clinics or pet supply stores. If animal care organizations are scarce in an area, many people feel like they are not responsible for their pet’s medical care. The urge to provide their pet with the care they need decreases dramatically. Those who do seek pet stores or clinics end up spending more money since prices increase with fewer selections.
Aside from poverty, some people tend to forget that commonly found animals—livestock such as chickens, ducks, and goats—can also belong to families as a pet as well. In 2017, Congress passed the H.R. 1587 Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act that prohibited the regular use of antibiotics in livestock because they “have the potential to cause resistance and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in people (1).” This raises a problem for people who own livestock as pets because they are unable to buy livestock antibiotics online since the Congress Act prohibited the medications to be shipped within California. Although antibiotics are still permitted in California, they require a prescription for necessary uses only. In the circumstance that a livestock pet is unable to get medications shipped online, they are also unable to turn to pet stores since it is difficult to find medication for livestock in regular pet stores, as they are not classified as “common” pets.
Providing medical care for pets can be an obstacle for many people. Some possible solutions to these issues include advocating to lower the cost of pet maintenance care and vet prescriptions in areas where there are fewer pet supply stores. Donate to animal welfare campaigns that help impoverished areas. Also, advocating for paying alternatives for veterinary clinics can make the vet bill seem less daunting for people living in poverty. Doing so will help those who are struggling to pay their rent, and allow them to have the chance of supporting their precious animal companion, whether they’re a dog, cat, or chicken