Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Do the Poor Buy Exotic Pets?

Many folks - particularly poor folks - think that "rich folks" buy exotic pets, but in reality it is the poor and lower classes who are the prime consumers of exotic pets.

In a recent posting, I mentioned in passing that some of the poorest people in our country squander what little money they have on tattoos (which can cost thousands) and piercings (ditto) and exotic pets (ditto again).  This is, of course, because people we perceive as "poor" are not poor on a global scale.  In America, being poor doesn't mean you are malnourished, it means you have a shitty car.
As I reported in the Pet Trap, you can spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year on a pet, and in fact, that kind of surprised me when I added up all the costs.   Just vet bills alone along with medicines can run into the hundreds.    I cannot fathom how someone making less than $20,000 a year can justify spending over a grand just on pet costs.   But of course, they don't know where their money is going, and don't realize how expensive it is, just to own a pet.

And this is just for a normal pet like a cat or a dog, which you can often get for free from the local shelter, or in my case, race track.   Many middle-class people adopt pets from shelters this way.  They are intelligent and realize that "puppy mills" are cranking out dogs with incestuous pedigrees and horrific health problems, and that buying a pet only encourages these puppy mills to flourish.

The poor, they often buy dogs - expensive dogs - as a status symbol they can ill afford.  As I noted in my debit card theft posting, my debit card information was stolen as part of an elaborate con to sell non-existent French Bulldogs to gullible people.  My debit card was used to post the ads on "dogs for sale" websites.   They also used a "secret shopper" con to get folks to unwittingly launder money for them through Western Union.  It was quite an elaborate setup!

But the main "hook" they used was to offer an expensive puppy to people who can't afford expensive puppies.   It is a common con game on the Internet - offering something that is expensive, such as a Kubota tractor, a Casita trailer, or a Harley Davidson motorcycle, for only a fraction of the price and then asking people to wire money to pay for it.

And the sort of people who fall for this con are not smart people, but lower-class and poor people, who believe they can get something-for-nothing.   What is interesting, therefor, is that it is clear that the poor want exotic pets and will pay a lot of money for them.

This reflects my experiences generally with expensive dogs, snakes and other reptiles, hairless cats, and whatnot.   The sort of folks who buy these animals are usually not upper-class people, but rather middle-class and lower-class, often the very poor.  When it comes to expensive vicious dogs, it is almost always the poor who buy these - to protect their meager possessions in their trailer homes or homes in the ghetto.

The question is, of course, if pets cost a lot of money to keep and exotic pets cost a lot of money to buy, why do the poor seem to like exotic pets?   Of course, half the problem is that the poor buy a dog and then never bother to neuter or spay it (hence the plethora of mixed-breed and ill-bred pit bull mixes at the shelter, which are often hard to adopt out).  They have vague plans of breeding the dog, which remain vague until their dog humps the neighbor's rottweiler, and another litter of unwanted puppies is born.

And of course, they don't give the dog its shots or medicines, and then they chain it to a tree and feed it occasionally from a rotting 100-lb bag of Wal-Mart "Old Roy" dog food.   These dogs don't live very long.   And sadly, I have been to more than one house where such a dog lives, with a clean circle of dirt and dog waste defined by the length of the dog's chain.

Many young people, struggling to get by, like to buy snakes or lizards or ferrets.   Why you would want these as a pet is a good question - here's the answer:  They want attention.   A fellow in Key West walks down the street every night with a ferret on his shoulder.  It is a status symbol and gets him a lot of attention - which is what status symbols are all about.

And as I have noted again, the poor and lower-middle-class are far more likely to squander what little money they have on status symbols.  Rich people don't put 22" bling rims on their clapped-out cars.  Poor people do so and rent the rims and get a doubly shitty deal.

Exotic pets, of course, are problematic on a number of levels.   First of all, in many instances, buying an exotic pet helps fuel the trade in exotic pets, which in turns threatens these animals in the wild.  People stuff parrots into cardboard tubes to smuggle them into the United States.  Half of them die in route, just so you can say you have a parrot.  Dumb.

Second, buying exotic bred animals like designer dogs, feeds the puppy-mills of the country, causing more and more animals to be inbred, causing the entire breed to suffer, and putting money in the pockets of really odious people.  When a movie or television show popularizes a particular pet, the shelters are usually full of them a few years later.  When Jack Russell Terriers became popular after Frazier went on the air, the animal shelters were full of the little nuisances, when people realized that unlike on the show, they were spasmodic little dogs that tore up their homes while they were away.  Rapid breeding and inbreeding didn't help matters any.

Third, often such animals escape or are let go by their owners, when they become too much to handle.  That Burmese python seems like a cute and creepy pet (the creepy factor being the status for the poor - they love to shock people for effect) at first, but eventually it will become large enough to kill you as you sleep.  Or as you try to clean its cageOr maybe kill your children.    Or whatever the fuck.  You Google this and end up with pages of hits.  Snakes, what's not to like?  And hey, being eaten by your own vicious pit bull isn't exactly fun, either.  Or having your face and fingers eaten by your pet chimp?

So they are let go or escape, and now populate the Florida Everglades.   Give the Alligators some competition!

Exotic pets are indeed a trap.   Not only do they cost a lot to buy, they cost a lot to own, and often they can live for decades or nearly a Century, in the case of some birds and reptiles.   It is another one of those deals where you sign on the dotted line as a lark and end up paying for a lifetime.

For example, a friend of mine has set up a "go fund me" page to cover his health expenses, as he claims he is living hand-to-mouth.   His two macaws are apparently living claw-to-beak as well!   Some of the poorest people I know are also the ones who have odd pets.

As for living situations, it limits your choices.   Landlords are reluctant to rent to exotic pet owners or vicious dog owners, due to the liabilities involved.   And think about it - you buy an exotic pet or a vicious dog before you have a place to live?  It makes no sense.   Another friend of mine with sixteen cats, eight dogs, two parrots, and even turtles was trapped in the same rented house as no one would rent to them.  They ended up building a small pole-barn type home to live in, as they could not find any other place to live.

And let's face it, when you get an exotic pet, it is creepy and you make yourself creepy and thus make yourself less attractive to other people, which is sure to limit your prospects in life, both romantically and financially.   Who wants to hire creepy snake guy?  Not me.  In fact, I would put that down on my employment application - do you own any weird pets?  As far as I know, it is one of the few questions left that you can ask!

So what's the deal with exotic pets?  Just say no.  Snakes and reptiles are not cuddly and they are not pets - they are just wild animals you are keeping in your home, and no, they don't like you one bit.  The lizard brain has little room for love.  Lots of room for salmonella, however!   Vicious dogs mark you as poor and will inevitably hurt someone.  Other exotic animals are an assault on nature, as you deplete their populations to own them - or destroy the local environment when you let them go free (yes, I am looking at you, snakehead fish owners!).

It just marks you as poor and stupid, not wealthy and sophisticated.   No, the very wealthy do not have tigers and exotic fish in their underground lairs or overwrought mansions - that's the Hollywood version of wealth - the one the poor and stupid bite on.

Exotic pets, when you get down to it are just wild animals you keep in your house, or should I say trailer or apartment as most of the stories you read about exotic pets describe them as being kept in apartments, rented houses, or trailer homes.

And let's face it, if you are really "poor" or "living paycheck to paycheck" can you really afford to throw thousands of dollars at something as useless as an exotic pet?

But that is the deal, ain't it?  The folks who complain about living "paycheck to paycheck" and having no savings or can't afford health insurance, all have satellite TV, a monster truck, a hobby car, a smart phone, and..... exotic pets!

Sorry, but my sympathy for poor choices in life is rapidly extinguishing.  And no, I don't have to respect them, either!

EDIT:  It should also be noted that when I lived in poor neighborhoods, many of my friends had very elaborate salt water aquariums - sometimes costing thousands of dollars!   I had an aquarium myself!

As I became more wealthy, I noticed my peers didn't have this crap.  Wal-Mart has a HUGE aquarium section, which tells us a lot.  The latest thing is fluorescent fish, genetically engineered so they glow in the dark.  I kid you not.

Hollywood movies always depict "rich people" as having exotic pets and enormous aquariums.   It is the white-trash view of wealth.  I suspect Warren Buffet doesn't even have a gold fish!  He does, however have (or had) a Labrador Retriever - about as un-exotic as it gets.