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I enjoyed Stephanie Mencimer’s article “Boondoggie” (7/9) on the amount of money people choose to spend on their pets’ veterinary care (and the important word there is “choose”). Mencimer detailed several other noble causes that the money could also be spent on, including feeding the hungry and helping impoverished children (locally and in developing countries), but what she failed to mention is that human beings owe a great many of our medical advances to testing done on animals. Many animals, from lab rats on up, were tortured and killed in the process of testing different formulations of everything from medical equipment and new life-saving drugs to mascara and dish detergent.
I would also like to remind the author that were it not for heightened sensibilities about the treatment of animals and the establishment of humane societies, Americans wouldn’t have some of the very organizations that care for neglected and abused children. At the turn of the century, it was an abused child seeking refuge at the local humane society in New York City who drew attention to the fact that there were no such established societies for children.
As a former volunteer at the San Francisco SPCA’s Animal Hospital, and at the risk of anthropomorphizing, I submit that, although human beings (as smug as we are) may be the smartest life form on the planet, we do not have the market cornered on love, happiness, fear, or grief.
And as kind and caring as all of those pet owners were, let’s face it: In all likelihood, they were not about to donate those funds to charity. Mentioning the poor and hungry does a lot to foster guilty feelings in the reader, and perhaps in the pet owners, but it’s more likely the money would have been spent on a new TV, a car, or clothes. Ask any accountant.
Here’s a solution: Spend the money on your beagle. As a fellow pet owner, I can honestly say you will not regret it. And just to make sure, send an equal amount of money to the charity of your choice. Better yet, volunteer. Your dog will feel better, you’ll feel better, and maybe you’ll make some of the needy and hungry you talk about feel better, too.
Silver Spring, Md.