The Homeless and Their Pets: Mutual Dependence for Survival

Michelle D. Land

Michael, Wayne, and Gonzo_NYC_101515

Michael, Wayne and Gonzo, New York City. Photo: Michelle D. Land

When Wayne (above right) and his dog, Gonzo, sleep at night, Gonzo is both alarm and shield. “If someone is trying to wake me up, Gonzo doesn’t bark, he just lays across me. Same thing if it is raining or there is something going on that I should know about.”

Throughout most of my twenty-minute conversation with Wayne, Gonzo, a brindle pit bull, lay on his blanket curled up, oblivious to my presence. But there was a palpable feeling of interdependence between the two, as there usually is between the homeless and their companion animals.

To homeless pet guardians, their animals are sources of emotional support: friendship, companionship, unconditional acceptance, reduced loneliness, and love. They are “family” and “friends.” They facilitate contact with those who might not otherwise communicate with a homeless person, thereby reducing the social isolation so common to many homeless. They can be strong motivators, providing a sense of responsibility and purpose. Most important, especially in the case of youth, caring for a pet can help the homeless to develop healthier coping mechanisms, strive to stay out of trouble and take better care of themselves.

The pets can be beneficiaries as well. Wayne proudly showed me Gonzo’s mulepack-style saddlebag designed for dogs. A homeless support program gave it to him. Gonzo likes to carry his own things, Wayne explained, because it gives him a sense of purpose. Many a parent has spoken similarly of a child and her backpack. But Wayne was also noting the contrast between Gonzo’s life on the street and the life of a domiciled dog. Most of us must leave our pets home alone for as long as eight to twelve hours a day. Gonzo is with Wayne at all times and has the benefit of constant interaction, socialization and enrichment.

Homeless pet owners constitute a hidden population.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 578,000 Continue reading

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma: Is it Okay to Drink Milk?

Raghav Patel

For the past four years I have adopted a vegetarian diet, where I don’t eat the meat of any animal, and over the past few dairycowwwyears I have begun to see many other people, from friends and family to also acquaintances that tell me that they have become vegetarians as well. In the United States the rate of people adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle grows every year, showing that there is a increasing awareness to the issues that come with farming livestock. There are several reasons for why people turn to a vegetarian diet, and that may be for the health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet, or for the reasons that raising animals bring on a host of environmental issues, but I’d like to focus on the reason why I and many others choose to be a vegetarian, and that is the ethical issues of eating meat. For the people that abstain from eating meat because they do not want to promote the suffering or killing of any animal.

I understand people go even further than a vegetarian diet and adopt a vegan lifestyle where they won’t use any products derived form animals including leather, but there are those people that believe they are helping animals by simply not eating them. I don’t mean to diminish any good that comes from believing this, but I also want people to understand that the suffering of an animal only continues as it grows older on these livestock farms, either because a cow is pumping out milk for its whole life or because a chicken is popping out eggs continuously, which is just as cruel for its own reasons. Killing the animal is terrible by all means, but the continued exploitation and abuse that an animal suffers while it’s alive is just as bad, if not worse.

dairy-cow-giant-udder-I say it may be worse because dairy cows live their entire lives facing a host of issues, such as being pumped with hormones and antibiotics, living under horrible conditions, and from the psychological abuse they endure; just so we gain something from the cows that we don’t necessarily need. While killing an animal ends its life, it at least stops the immediate pain and suffering that the animal experiences while it is alive and being exploited for what it produces. For a dairy farm to be efficient it needs to continuously produce milk from all of its cows, and like humans, cows only produce milk once they are pregnant. This typically requires that the dairy farmer constantly impregnate the cow (using artificial insemination) so that it can constantly produce milk that it would have given its new born calf, except that the calf shortly after birth is taken away from its mother, and even worse is if the calf is male it is sold and then slaughtered to produce veal. To Continue reading

Cecil and Obie: Owning animals, dead or alive


Photo from Care2 petitions – click image

Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

Cecil the lion is dead, long live Cecil. Obie the tiger lives–and dies–in successive purgatories for 45 years running.

Cecil, a unique individual and beloved personality, was slain by a small and hollow man for no reason other than ego. This one “special” lion’s death triggered a tipping point and unleashed worldwide condemnation.

And then there’s Obie, one beloved football mascot who has required a veritable breeding mill to produce the 45 individuals who’ve served as namesake. Make no mistake–it’s the mascot who’s beloved, not the unique tiger cub plugged into the role annually. Old Obies live and die in obscurity as wild captives no longer cubbishly cute, as now-dangerous adults consigned to–well, who knows? Who cares?   Continue reading

The Community Impact of CAFOs

Stop the Wysocki Factory-CAFO Farm

Seth Victor

Saratoga, WI is a small town in central Wisconsin. Set on the banks of the Wisconsin River, this community of a few thousand people is likely not a major destination for tourists roaming through the state, but by all appearances it seems a typical mid-western settlement from the 19th century that evolved into a small town befitting a Prairie Home Companion yarn. It is also the setting of an ongoing fight between the community and a proposed CAFO, one that has drawn intense public ire. Continue reading

50 Millions Deaths is an Acceptable Cost of Business

Seth Victor

I’ll keep this short and sweet, because we’ve made this point on the blawg several dozen times. NPR reports that the recent outbreak of H5N2, or Avian Flu, has caused economic hardship for American farmers, to the point that the USDA is importing eggs from the Netherlands to meet demand.

Although it is mentioned in the lead paragraph, the fact that nearly 50 million chickens and turkey have been slaughtered to stem the virus is played off like any other economic number. As you read the article, look at the wording: these animals have been “destroyed,” not “killed” or “slaughtered.” The rest of the article is about the business model and bottomline consequences. It might as well be about how many iPhones had to be recalled for defective touch screens. These aren’t living things, remember; they’re just animals, cogs in the machine. Nowhere in the article is any suggestion that this outbreak could be avoided by not housing birds in CAFOs in the first place, save for one link that claims humans might be spreading the virus by entering CAFOs. Instead, the US government has taken the position that this virus is the fault of wild birds. Any guesses as to which lobbying group might have had a hand in that statement?

We. Can. Stop. This. H5N2 is not some mystery beyond comprehension. It is a result of the way we raise farmed birds. Stop purchasing eggs and meat from CAFOs, and they cannot exist without your dollars. It really is that simple.

Win a few, lose a few: Animal fighting, commercial breeding get another pass


Dog fighter in training (ASPCA photo) – click for story

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Seventy percent of U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of the animal protection movement–so says recent research–which leads me to think that the other 30% serve in the Montana legislature. Animals lost what should have been a couple of slam-dunks during the 2015 biennial session, but that’s not unusual in a state where the unofficial motto might be “if it’s brown, it’s down; if it flies, it dies; if it hooks, it cooks.” Wildlife are under constant siege from arrows, bullets, hooks, and traps, while laws protecting companion animals don’t have a prayer if they can be twisted–no matter how remotely in the exploiters’ minds–to hold rodeo and animal agriculture to some minuscule standard of decency.   Continue reading

Ringling Bros. Retires Circus Elephants

Seth Victor

As many of you may have already heard, Ringling Bros. is retiring elephants from its act and focusing on caring for elephants in a conservation center. Wayne Pacelles of HSUS described this move as a “Berlin Wall moment for animal protection,” and attributed the change to the evolving public opinion surrounding animal welfare, including the outcry that came on the heels of Blackfish and the treatment of orcas at Sea World. The termination of elephant performances has been long-sought by PETA.Photography-Elephant-Wallpapers

The media reaction, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a bit divided regarding Ringling Bros’s decision. An op-ed in the New York Post believes that the circus’s “craven capitulation to PETA will only embolden zealots to agitate for elimination of all circus animals — if not eventually to bestow upon all living creatures the same “inalienable rights” as humans,” and goes on to state that without exposure to animals via a circus, most people will not form a connection with the animals, and will thus not care to save them in the wild. The L.A. Times also notes that many people feel the elephants are an iconic part of the joy of the circus. Meanwhile op-eds in the New York Times range from echoing the Post to refuting the sentiments of the circus sympathizers. Continue reading


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