People asking for money on the street is unfortunately nothing new to any large city, especially in Manhattan. But, what is disturbing is what seems to be a trend in New York City to involve animals.
For the past month, I’ve seen the same guy standing outside the subway stop I get off of for work holding a sign asking for money. The man, who I’d say is about 50-60 years old, holds a sign asking for money next to a moving cart-like device topped with boxes, cloths and I’m assuming everything he owns.
About two weeks ago as I walked past him, I noticed he had two kittens sitting on top. The kittens were playful with him and each other, and looked healthy, clean and in good overall condition. I immediately thought to myself, “that doesn’t seem right,” but kept walking. I felt bad for this poor guy, who obviously hit rough times, but thought, “at least he has his pets”.
But, as the day went on, I got more upset about it, because I kept thinking it was odd he — what seemed like suddenly — had these tiny kittens. I didn’t see him for a few days, but earlier this week he was there again, and as I walked past, I noticed he had two more kittens that again looked like they were in very good condition. My intuition told me something was off, but I kept walking. Well, I didn’t get further than the other side of the street when my curiosity kicked in and wanted to know more about these kittens. I walked back, but he was no where to be found.
The next day when I was getting on the subway after work, I saw two dogs tied to a cart-like mobile structure. As I stopped to admire their cute faces I realized there was one around and it seemed like they were abandoned. I started looking around and bent down to pet the pups, which had collars with tags on and even had painted toe nails. When I did this, I noticed the egg crates on the cart they were attached to were filled with several guinea pigs and kittens.
I panicked, and was horrified all at the same time, and immediately reached for my Blackberry, to call someone. Not really sure who I was going to call, but I knew something had to be done. As soon as I took my Blackberry out, also snapping a photo of the pups, I guy came walking over and started to push it away.
My journalistic gut immediately told me something shady was going on, and tried to engage the guy in conversation — all the while him turning away from me and trying to walk away.
Me: “Hi! Are these your dogs? They are absolutely adorable.”
Him: “Yeah, they’re mine.”
Me: “The guinea pigs and kittens, too?”
Me: “Oh, cool. They’re cute. Where did you get them?”
Him: “The pet store.”
And then, he started walking faster and as I would pick up my pace, he would then turn and he wouldn’t even look at me.
*Ding! Ding! Ding!* Something was not right about the situation, but I decided at that point I was in no way capable of continuing this discussion with him.
Several things crossed my mind — he was selling them for profit, they were stolen or they were his pets and he had no where else to keep them but in those crates. All three of those scenarios killed me.
If he was doing something like selling them, what could I do? Call the police? It’s not illegal to sell animals. Yeah, maybe they could have gotten him on a technically like no sales tax certificate or vendor license, but then what would happen to those animals — they would be sent to animal control.
The thought that these animals may be all he has and they bring him happiness made me wonder if there were resources out there for homeless people with pets. Can they stay in shelters with them? How do they get them vaccinated not to spread disease?
I had no immediate way of changing the upsetting situations I had been witnessing. My guess is this is not new, but it was something that I never encountered working in Manhattan for three years prior, until now.
Even before that when I would be in the city for pure fun, I never saw this — or felt so helpless.
This post is linked up to the Saturday Pet Bloggers Blog Hop brought to you by Two Little Cavaliers, Life with Dogs, and Confessions of the Plume.
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