Homeless Pets vs. Homeless People

homelesswoman.jpgLos Angeles taxpayers are spending almost 50% as much for pet shelters as they are for homeless shelters…

Joel John Roberts at LA’s Homeless Blog recently expressed concern that pet shelters might be receiving more funding than homeless shelters:

I certainly feel that our society should make sure homeless pets are taken care of. Even if it costs $20.2 million per year in operating costs, and an additional $150 million in funds to build “state of the art animal care centers.”

But let’s make sure we also investment much more to build “state of the art homeless care centers” and housing that homeless people can afford. The County of Los Angeles plans to fund and locate five stabilization centers throughout the region. Yet, cities and neighborhoods are balking. If these were pet centers, there would be no objection.

According to Ed Boks of LA Animal Services, they have a “$20.2 million budget serving 3.9 million residents with eight new state of the art animal care centers soon to be opened throughout the City.”

I contacted Scott Ito at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority on how this compares to LA’s budget for homeless human shelters:

Based on figures for this previous fiscal year (since we will be entering into a new fiscal year in about one week), our agency receives approximately $16 million from the City, while the County provides almost $11 million. We have a total budget of about $50 million, with the bulk of our funding coming from the Federal government and a small amount from the State of California.

Let me repeat: Shelters for homeless animals, $20.2 million. Shelters for homeless people, $50 million.

I think it would be a shame to spend any less on the animal shelters and services in Los Angeles, but I think our priorities need adjustment. Shouldn’t we regard the quality of human life much more than that of animals? Or am I being too simplistic with these numbers?

11 Replies to “Homeless Pets vs. Homeless People”

  1. This is a great and thoughtful post. Obviously, we all care about homeless pets. But it is much easier to care about them (and anthropomorphize them despite, or because, they don’t have any of the negative behavior or traits we associate with homeless people) than it is to care about actual homeless people. I can already imagine a Steve Lopez column stemming from this post…

  2. You’re right. We all spend too much money helping animals. In fact today I’m totally making my lazy ass cats go out and look for some gainful fucking employment.

  3. “Shouldn’t we regard the quality of human life much more than that of animals?”

    I suppose it’s a consequence of humans being the dominant species, but wouldn’t it be arrogant of us to assume human life is more valuable or important?

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate here. I still eat meat and wear leather. :D

  4. Well, here is a for instance on why it may not be so simple a comparison: The homless population in the county is in the tens of thousands at most, the homeless animals are in the millions. Also, homeless animals are a health issue for people and homeless animals are everywhere, not in isolated areas.

    It could also be that animal shelters have been neglected and underfunded for a long time and some catching up is in order.

    On top of the 50 million a year for homeless people, this year the County has also allocated 100 million for new (homeless people) shelters. Long overdue, certainly, but still showing your figures to be an incomplete picture.

    I think the main thing to note is that Bok’s job goes way beyond caring for abandoned pets to dealing with the rapidly escalating feral cat population, for example, in a humane way. This is not only about helping the animals, but protecting human health as well.

  5. Elf: So what your saying is homeless people should make an effort at being cuter and more cuddly? (j/k)

    Pointed Cap: Best comment, maybe ever.

    Mr. Hooks: You wear leather and eat meat – clearly, you’d rather pay more for animals… so anything spent sheltering them should be considered a sound investment.

    Quinn: Seriously, these are some of the issues I was wondering about. However, the millions cited aren’t grants, but an annual budget. No idea if these amounts are consistent with past years, but definitely worth looking into.

  6. $20m in caring for animals vs. $50m for humans seems like a normal proportion to me, but that’s just me. I think the homeless humans, in general, have more of an ability to care for themselves than the homeless animals do. Keep in mind that the $20 million is probably including %100 of the housing, food and health care (spay, neuter, deflea and countless other things) for those animals, whereas the $50 million is probably not caring for %100 of the humans’ medical or nutritional needs.

  7. i’m with hooks that i value animals greatly, especially after they are converted into products.

    and i’m still waiting for the “but it isn’t the animals fault THEY are homeless…” comment.

  8. This is definitely troubling. We have a serious homelessness problem in L.A. and we need to confront it. It does make us look bad, and in such an image-conscious city one would think there would be a drive to clean things up a bit. In LA we’re already taxed higher than in practically any other city in the country. I want to see that money put to good use.

  9. Sadly, yes–we find it ever so much easier to want to help a little lost kitty than we do a little lost human. We rationalize it by saying the human can empower him or herself to improve their situation, while the animal can’t. (But of course often the human can’t empower themselves to the degree they need to, and they simply need ~help.~) But I think it points to a profound self-loathing inherent in much of human nature. Politics and civic life reflects our innermost beliefs, and this one says “You don’t deserve help.”

    It’s sad. Boks should get as much as he can to fund animal care–that’s his job. And it’s our job to stop and think and ask ourselves, if we’re going to donate/legislate to help pets, we should do the same for people.

    But time and time again, people don’t want to.

  10. This is a classic case of causes squabbling amongst themselves when the real issue is external. I mean come on, i’ve heard ‘we have spent too much money on land preservation while the schools are unfunded’, ‘weve spent too much money on bloated schools while there is no open space in the city’, ‘too much money is spent on animal shelters rather than the homeless’, ‘too much money is spent on the ‘delinquent’ homeless rather than programs for the poor working class’, etc. There was even a proposal to SELL forest service land forever to pay for schools in some areas… I think this is ALL bunk. The truth is, the money spent on homeless programs, animal health and safety, open space, school programs, environmental programs, etc, etc, etc, all pales in comparison to the money spent on bombing iraq, political campaigning, corporate feedlots, corruption, etc, etc, etc, etc. Now I’m not saying we shouldnt have a strong military… but when the whole santa monica mountains recreation area (literally millions of visitors a year in addition to less direct but equally important effects on air quality, flood control, etc, etc) gets less money a yea than a handful of politicians, there is something wrong. Let’s not squabble amongst ourselves and instead look at the real problems, okay?

    just my thoughts… in my opinions, the homeless programs AND the animal shelters are underfunded

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