So why overheat for the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) this September? Well, apart from sounding like some kind of far left organisation founded by James Herriot, PDSA is one of the major UK charities that helps manage and pay for veterinary treatment for people’s pets when the owner is unable to pay for that treatment – and increasingly common situation as veterinary care is expensive and can spiral in the case of some ailments. Not remotely getting at vets here by the way – one of my best friends is a vet and after all the work that goes into getting qualified the service demands a decent return. But the reality is that while in the UK we are blessed with a system of minimum free health care for humans the same does not extend to pets.
Animals should not suffer unnecessarily so to withhold treatment does not fit well with me. But there are insurance schemes to pay for treatment. Also, if you cannot pay vet fees then perhaps you should not have a pet in the first place.
For me personally it is not quite as simple as that. In the end pets, particularly dogs and cats in some situations can be much more important than simply a luxury affectation, which they clearly are for some. There is now plenty of data available on the benefits for some individuals of having a companion animal in their life. I can attest this from personal experience of the presence of a dog in my father’s life after my mother passed away. His black Labrador Sooty was a huge comfort in terms of company and in getting him up and out of the house to walk her, and in doing so kept him fitter and made sure he was engaging with people – the regular dog walking community can be exactly that, and for the older end of the population where people often live on their own will often notice if they do not see someone for several days and check on people as a result.
In fact I was a little surprise to find the US government Center (sic) for Disease Control website supporting exactly this with a nice little summary of potential benefits of having a pet, namely:
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Reduction in feelings of loneliness
- Increase in opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increase in opportunities for socialization
The reality is that many of the people who will benefit most from these are those who live on their own and may well be older (and/or infirm). In a lot of cases I also suspect that they are also exactly the group that might struggle to pay vet fees and/or fail to make provision for treatment through insurance. The latter I do not level as a criticism as pet insurance certainly did not exist as a major thing when I was growing up with a dog. My father had a policy that paid for Sooty’s treatment in her last years, but then he had worked in insurance services most of his life so the concept came naturally. I do not know if the same thought processes apply for others in his age bracket, and as already stated I would rather see the animal treated than wag fingers.
So partly my interest in raising a little cash here is in the interests of animal welfare; however there is a human dimension here that I do not want to overlook, to be able to help those in need of the company and reassurance that a companion animal can provide retain that relationship a little longer by having timely and effective treatment.
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