- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2000

While our elected representatives are busy arguing over how best to handle the health care problem, we find out there is a serious shortage of blood for animals who are ill. Veterinary medicine has advanced to the point where Rex and Felix can get almost the same medical care as any member of the family. Blood transfusions for dogs and cats are now commonplace. Meanwhile, they keep telling us millions of Americans don't have any health insurance.

We now have kidney transplants for cats and dogs, dental work on horses, and even birds are given transfusions. This is probably hard to understand if you are some poor soul sitting in a hospital emergency room, waiting for treatment. You can even buy health insurance for your pet, and I'm sure we will have pet HMOs someday. There are even animal blood banks that ship plasma all over the country. Dog and cat donors are needed but are in short supply.

I suppose I can understand someone trying to save their ill pet. However, it does seem strange that we have a constant debate on doctor-assisted suicide, while at the same time we run shelters for abandoned cats and dogs. How would a social worker in some poverty-stricken country explain our indifference to our fellow citizens who are ill while we are spending billions on keeping abandoned dogs and cats alive? There are more animal shelters than there are shelters for the homeless.

When will the government step in? Is it fair for the rich to be able to provide medical care for their pets while the poor must watch their critters suffer and die? Where are the liberals when you need them? Why not Medicare for animals? Aren't they just as important as our senior citizens? A pet is like a member of the family. Of course they don't vote, which may be the reason they haven't yet come under the government umbrella. Let's tax cats and dogs, and maybe this surplus problem will go away.

There are pet pigs, pet chickens and pet snakes. You name it, and someone has it for a pet. There are even people who keep insects for pets. It must be a holdover from the time when most of the country lived on farms where animals belong. Keeping a pet cooped up in a high rise and taking it out for a 10-minute walk does not come under the heading of being kind to animals. I bet there are animal psychiatrists who treat these poor creatures for depression, when in reality they should be treating the owners.

A country that can afford to run animal hospitals, animal blood banks and perform animal organ transplants, while at the same time having millions of citizens dependent upon handouts for their medical care, would seem to have its priorities skewed. What we need is an organization of "People For The Ethical Treatment of People," and to stop worrying about the quality of life for cats and dogs until such time as we can treat our underprivileged population at the same level we are treating our pets.

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