Here in Miami I get plenty of clients who send an “agent” to do their veterinary business. Instead of seeing a pet owner face-to-face, I get the happened-to-be-available husband, the housekeeper, the man-servant or the could-care-less son who happens to be home from college.
As I muddle through my obligatory history-taking in these cases, it’s clear there is no bond. In fact, it inevitably seems as if the concept of animal adoration eludes them entirely, ridiculous as my questions are in their estimation.
This scenario always gets me to wondering how it is that people can fail to enjoy the company of animals. As our culture moves inexorably towards a greater animal affinity (pets as family and all that), it strikes me that these “don’t-get-the-pet-thing” peeps will always be a breed apart.
Interestingly, these individuals don’t always fall into one category of animal-haters, much though we might find it emotionally expedient to lump them in as such. Here in South Florida where the diversity of human souls is culturally vast, it’s especially obvious that what makes for animal unfriendliness is not necessarily a defect of character. Rather, it’s the unfortunate combination of culture, upbringing and experience that steers people in a pet averse direction.
As much as we dislike the resulting mindset, it behooves us to understand the source of this pet aversion, more so should we be wedded to the desire to push forward with pet-specific legislation, expand our cities’ animal friendly offerings and support animal welfare initiatives across the spectrum.
To that end, I’ve taken it upon myself to list the issues that hold people back when it comes to animal-keeping, in-home or otherwise:
“Pets are dirty and spread disease”: This POV is common but does not apply to the kind of pet keeping you and I are familiar with. Still, if someone was raised by a filthy aunt who kept cats in deplorable conditions you can understand why they might forever be traumatized by the concept of cat pee. Furthermore, it’s this sentiment that keeps pets out of doors among many who hold it dear.
“Animals are low class”: Culturally speaking, it’s the case that many Latin American families carry this burden. Though a fru-fru Maltese might not qualify as down-market, it’s definitely the case that pet keeping in general has a PR problem within certain Latino sectors––high class gentleman farmers get a pass, though.
“Pets cause allergies”: It’s amazing how many people assume this to be the case, despite the fact that children raised with animals statistically suffer fewer allergies in the long run.
“Pets are a burden on society”: This intellectual argument holds sway for many who never had the chance to bond with pets during their childhood. These individuals are those with a hair trigger for feral cats prowling their yard or for animal legislation that threatens to increase their tax burden.
“I’m afraid of animals”: The fear of animals––dogs especially––runs deep for some. I had a chance to see this up close and personal in my family when one related household raised children in the absence of pets and a “don’t touch the dog!” warning every time the children showed any curiosity. Now they’re afraid of anything bigger than a three pound Chihuahua. But there are also cases where persons bitten as younglings forever hold a grudge or when those raised in countries where rabies runs amok maintain a serviceable fear of any animal.
“I don’t get the pet thing”: These are the souls who tolerate us but don’t understand it. They can be swayed but it can take a lot to get them over to your way of seeing things. They just don’t get it.
“Animals are wonderful but keeping them as pets is somehow wrong”: I don’t know this to be the case but sometimes I think this is what Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS believes. He claims never to have “bonded” with an animal but still maintains an intellectual approach to caring for animals that goes far beyond what most of us believe in (i.e., veganism, practical euthanasia, etc.). In some ways it’s understandable and laudable. In others it’s downright creepy. But it’s worth exploring.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your take on those who hold animals at arms length? Have you any other POVs you find intriguing? Any other examples of a "non-pet" personality type?
*** On today's DailyVet post over on PetMD: Mad Men meets veterinary medicine (in which you'll see John Hamm's fabulous mug as adornment).