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Surely we can care about people and pets

I was interested to read Geoff Black’s comments (Letters, 31/7) following a particularly curmudgeonly column from Jeff Corbett (‘Pet care ruff on pocket’, Newcastle Herald,30/7).
Nanjing Night Net

As a veterinarian in the region for the past 28 years, I may well have a conflict of interest to draw attention to some of the wild claims made in both contributions. However, I could not let the opportunity pass.

Black’sclaim that pets are western society’s great indulgence may well be his opinion.

However, we know that apart from the utilitarian consideration for domesticated animals, we should recognise there is a symbiotic nature to the relationship.

Dogs provide companionship, but also protection.

They have assisted hunting in earlier societies and formed a communal bond with the human population.

Black claims that dogs’ life expectancies have increased at the expense of our own.

However, the lifeblood flows both ways.

Pets have been shown to provide benefits to mental health and physical health, including control of blood pressure.

Human society also benefits from the close bond with animals who have served as our test subjects for many medical advances over the past century.

As far as veterinary practices being the most lucrative businesses in western society, Black clearly has not looked at the books of any veterinary practices (average profitability 7 per cent) or the industry as a whole(‘Veterinary students to face lifetime debt for degree’,ABC News,14/7/14).

I think he has confused vets with plumbers?

In Australia, the pet market is estimated at $12 billion with 30 per cent spent on food.

About 25per cent is spenton vet services, 12per centon health products and about 8 per centor $1 billionon pet accessories.

This is a lot of money, but is spread over 24 million pets, with household ownership of pets (62 per cent) above the United Kingdom (40 per cent) but lagging New Zealand (64 per cent) and the United States(65 per cent) (‘Australia pet ownership in Australia’,Animal Medicines,2016)

Despite the claims by Black and Corbett, average veterinary spending on dogs per household per year is $397, out of a total pet spend per year of $1475.

So while we sometimes gasp at hearing about someone spending $10,000 or even $20,000 on veterinary care for their pet, there will be a lot of pets that never see a veterinary clinic.

And despite having a wonderful and wealthy society that can provide so much in healthcare for our people, and for our pets, we know that others, including pets, will not receive the care they need.

The paradox of spending money for dying children overseas is often thrown up as an argument against some moral travesty because my neighbour wants to buy his dog a pink collar or walks it in a pram, or spent $500 saving his dog.

YetI haven’t read the column that rails against the spending by that same neighbour buying a car with all the accessories – the special paint job, the sound system souped-upand the tinted windows.

It’s just a car, for crying out loud.

Why, I remember when cars got you from A to B, and they came in any colour you wanted, as long as it was black.

We make choices in life, and I am not sure how someone’s choice to spend whatever they want on their dog, or their car, should make one difference to Jeff Corbett.

But apparently it does.

As our labour market becomes more mobile, we move to more urban areas for improved work and lifestyle opportunities.

We delay child bearing and raising to late 20s and 30s.

Is it any wonder that we seek some companionship from our furry friends, and wish to bestow upon them the care, attention and love they draw from us?

I think it is great that we care about people AND about pets.

That we live in a society that can make these choices available.

And that if you want to believe your pet is waiting for you over the rainbow bridge, we are free to do so.

Dr David Tabrett BVSc MACVSc (Small Animal Medicine, Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care)2017 Australian Small Animal Veterinary Practitioner of the Year

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