The Role of Social Injustice in Accessing Pet Resources
by Danielle Cookish
One of the greatest misconceptions a person entering the field of animal welfare can have is to assume that their work will focus entirely on animals and not people, but people are very much a part of the equation. Issues affecting animals are so intertwined with those of the people attached to them that you can’t help the pet without addressing or working with the issues involving their people.
It’s this close relationship between animals and people that allows the social injustices that affect so many to also affect their pets. Many people in this country and in our own backyard struggle to find access to pet services and information for their beloved pets because of institutional bias and systemic inequity that impacts them and their animals.
Pets for Life (PFL), a program offered by the Humane Society of the United States, recognizes that this deeply rewarding connection with pets transcends socio-economic, racial, and geographic boundaries and that no one should be denied the benefits, joy, and sense of well-being that come with the human/animal bond - a philosophy that Dakin wholeheartedly supports.
PFL has identified a significant link between accessibility of pet resources (or the lack thereof) stemming back to issues of social injustice. The challenges faced by people and pets who live in poverty in underserved communities are deeply tied to the same problems faced by people of color in this country for more than 250 years. PFL research confirms that 1 in 10 white people face poverty while 1 in 5 Latino and 1 in 4 black people face the same challenges, for which they have developed a multi-pronged approach to correcting this imbalance and getting much-needed pet resources and services to areas hard-hit by poverty. What they have found is the alarming reality about underserved areas of this country, namely:
- 88% of pets they met were unaltered (not spayed or neutered)
- 70% of pets they encountered had never seen a veterinarian
- 78% of people had never contacted animal services (local shelter, animal control officer) for assistance with their pets
PFL's findings underscore similar issues that Dakin's programs and services address. With approximately 325,681 pets living in the Pioneer Valley, and more than 43,000 living below the poverty line, we are not exempt from this issue.
We agree with PFL that everyone deserves the opportunity to have animal companionship, especially those whose spirits have been challenged by their economic hardships. Everyone should know the unconditional love of a pet whose soulful eyes can lessen anxieties and depressing thoughts. And these pets deserve to have access to care.
Dakin’s Pet Food Aid Program helps people facing food insecurity feed their pets, and last year’s pandemic brought a demand five times the size of a typical year’s distribution of pet food. Our Clinic PLUS and Vaccine Clinic offer people the chance to have their pet seen by Dakin veterinarians for wellness treatments and minor injuries at affordable fees. Your support of Dakin, and these programs, allows you to have a hand in keeping a vital, loving bond between pet and person strong.
It’s too easy in today’s world to judge someone based on their appearance, their zip code, or even the condition of the pet carrier they use. No matter what town our clients come from, we believe people are good and will make good decisions for animals when they’re treated with kindness and understanding, and when they have enough information and resources, which our clinics provide. As our Executive Director Carmine DiCenso recently noted, “Dakin is really a human service organization that focuses on companion animals.”