Hmm... I understand the point of this New York Times article on the costs of having a pet. The writer is trying to alert folks on a budget about the often overlooked expenses of living with an animal. Or she just got a copy of the 2008 APPMA pet products trend report and pitched it at her editor as something fun. (Hey, we journalists do that.)
But talk about missing the boat. First, she mentions not buying a dog from a pet store in a kind of obligatory way. BUY a pet? Reputable pet supply stores no longer sell pets. They pair with shelters to do adoptions, but they do not sell puppies or kitttens, and those sad, grimy little corner stores that do ought to give any half sensible person fair warning. Yes, you might be the last chance for the poor animals there, but odds are you won't get a healthy animal. Then, she talks about adopting from a shelter but seems surprised that "you cannot just walk in and pick up a dog or a cat." She mentions that the usual fee may include shots and/or neutering, but not why shelters ask questions. It's not just to screen out the crazies (that, too), but it's also often part of a national effort to better pair people with pets. People who know what they're getting in terms of temperment, health, needs, and lifespan, are better able to make the lifelong commitment. The shelter asks questions because they don't want that cute kitten coming back in six months, when she's no longer quite so adorable. Or that frisky puppy returning in a year, untrained, because his once-playful antics no longer amuse the clueless owner.
Yes, regular vet visits are expensive. As is proper food, bedding, litter, etc. But if someone is going to write about who pays the real cost in improvident pet adoption, that writer should at least note that too often it's the animals who pay – and they pay with their lives.
(Thanks to Scott Delucchi of the Penninsula Humane Society for explaining how shelters are making sure more animals have healthy "forever" homes. Look for more in Probable Claws.)