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I haven’t been able to write about this topic until now. I am so upset and disturbed by our lack of concern for the mentally ill that it almost makes me physically ill. I don’t think people without severe mental illness can know what it is like to realize that the majority of society thinks less of you than they do of a dog or a cat. If you think I am exaggerating, follow along for a moment.

During the latest storms on the East Coast, a meme was going around social media. The meme had these words on it, “Why is it you can get arrested for leaving a dog out in this weather but  ok for homeless people to sleep in it.”  Obviously, there are a few errors in this, but it is the sentiment I am after and not the grammar. On one person’s Facebook page underneath the meme, a commenter wrote: “…But to answer the question, someone has taken on being a responsible pet owner, and that pet is 100% dependent on that owner and does not have free will, so that is why.”

The fact that there was even a response that someone thought sounded reasonable tells us everything about how they feel about homeless people. I don’t know anyone who is an addict or has schizophrenia and is psychotic that is acting in a way we could describe as “free will.” I can’t  even dissect this answer because the fact that someone tried to justify caring more for pets than homeless people makes me simultaneously weep, nauseous and angry to the point that I can feel my blood pressure going up.

I grew up with cats and dogs. In my twenties and almost to my thirties I had either a cat or two dogs. I am currently a pescetarian, so the only meat I eat is fish (poor fish) and most of my adult life I have gone on again off again with being a vegetarian. No one can say that I don’t care about the plight of animals. I do, but I don’t care more about animals than I do about people.

There have been two times that people have threatened to beat me up, and both times it had to do with asking (asking, not yelling, not screaming) them to please put their dogs on a leash. I am terrified of other people’s dogs, and I won’t go near a dog off leash. (My dad was attacked by a pit bull while walking into a store. The dog jumped out the car window and took a bite out of my dad’s stomach. It took several people to get the dog off of him.)

When I say that two adult men have threatened to beat me for asking them to put their dogs on a leash, I am not joking – they chased me, screamed at me, and one tried to get his Rottweiler to attack me. They both told me if they caught me I would be more afraid of them than of their dogs.

Where I live in Southern California pet owners are some of the most difficult people (and dangerous) I encounter on a regular basis. There are laws against having dogs in places serving or selling food (the exception is for service animals). To get around this, most pet owners claim that their dogs are service dogs. I have no issue with real service dogs. I think they are great, but I also know that real service animals’ training is so extensive that it is almost impossible to know they are around.

So, every time I go to the grocery store or to a restaurant I have to share the space with dogs. There are over ten thousand homeless people in the county I live in, and most places of business don’t want “those people” anywhere near their storefronts, but they welcome animals.

They welcome animals. Just let that sit with you for a minute and sink in.