Pets and health-care reform: My worlds collide

September 3, 2009 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

Christie and I were raving about this. Terrierman posted it, and Pat mentioned it in the comments.

What is it? Garrison Keillor’s essay for Salon about … pets and the health-care debate. Now, maybe you’d think there was nothing in common with these topics, but that’s not true. Pet topics and people topics are often the same at their root. For example, as we found with the pet-food disaster, there’s only one industrial food stream, and it dumps into the troughs  of processed food from which most of us eat.

And veterinary medicine has its own insurance crisis, with many veterinarians concerned about the growth of pet health insurance, because they fear a loss of control over their practices and increased administration costs. Other veterinarians, notably our Dr. Marty Becker and Pet Connection BFF  Dr. Patty Khuly, have spoken and written extensively on the need for pet health insurance to mediate the cost to consumers of veterinary care, and provide pet owners with options to “economic euthanasia.”

But there’s another reason for the interest of the Pet Connection team in the health insurance debate. See, we’re unusual in that most of us don’t have traditional “jobs.” We cobble together our incomes from a lot of different sources, and even finding health insurance — much less affording it — is a real challenge. We always worry, worry, worry about losing it, too.

And then there’s this: About decade ago, I had health insurance through a group, the National Writers Union. It was expensive, but I was glad to be able to find anything, and when I had surgery in 2000, I didn’t have to go bankrupt. But then the insurer stopped paying without warning, leaving many people who had paid for insurance with huge medical bills they could not pay.  (Did you know that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to healthcare costs? It’s true.)

So yes, we independent contractors, we American small-business entrepreneurs, have a real dog in this fight.

But back to Mr. Keillor, writing about his thoughts while listening to a call-in veterinarian on the radio:

There was real sympathy for the parent of the bassets with the adrenal deficiency, whereas the 48 million uninsured Americans (of whom two-thirds come from a family with at least one full-time worker) are merely a big fat statistic and so far Democrats have failed to produce a poster child. We can sort of imagine the misery of walking into an emergency room with no money, no plastic, no Blue Cross card, and trying to obtain treatment for some ailment that doesn’t involve bone fragments protruding from the skin, but it doesn’t speak to the heart the way an injured dog does.

Animals love us unconditionally and we love them back, maybe more than we love our neighbors, and that’s just the truth, Ruth. People can be irksome, petty, especially raggedy ones — poverty does not always bring out the best in folks — and that’s why it’s difficult to get people to care about the uninsured.

Go read.

Pet-food related: Over on her personal blog, Christie writes about a very good day, related to her fantastic long-form interview of Drs. Marion Nestle and Mal Nesheim on the dog food industry, pet food safety, and what we know and don’t know about canine nutrition in the July/August issue of The Bark.


Leading by example: My hometown, Sacramento, is the second city in which pet stores have signed on to the “no puppy-mills” pledge of the Humane Society of the United States. The three places I shop, Launderdog and More, the Pet Department Store and Western Feed, are all on the list:

Thanks to the efforts of local animal advocates, several Sacramento area pet stores have signed The Humane Society of the United States’ puppy friendly pet store pledge — committing not to sell puppies, but instead to support local animal adoption programs or provide literature on how to find a local shelter, rescue group or reputable breeder. The HSUS applauds these socially responsible independent retailers because their actions prove it is not necessary to support the puppy mill trade to operate a successful pet-related business.

“These stores have set a positive example of corporate responsibility for other pet-related businesses to follow,” said Stephanie Shain, senior director of The HSUS’ puppy mills campaign.

Here’s more about the program, and kudos to retailers who say no to puppy mills.


One more thing: Our newest sponsor, The Honest Kitchen, has a special offer they’re posting on Facebook. (You can follow them here.

Receive a free sample of The Honest Kitchen’s gourmet natural dog food. Email name and mailing address to

And tell them we sent ya. To pull more of the pieces together: Did you know Honest Kitchen does not allow their products to be sold in puppy-mill retail outlets? Check it out.

I’m just not the promote an advertiser type, but I have to say that I have long appreciated this company and its top dog, Lucy Postins, who was very outspoken during the pet food recall. They just keep trying to do what’s right, including moving to pastured chicken recently with humanely raised turkey to come.…

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Pets and health-care reform: My worlds collide Pets and health-care reform: My worlds collide

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