Paper Cuts

at 11:35 PM

The sidewalks on Van Ness Avenue were bustling and I was pressed for time. Although late for an appointment, I stopped, curious to see what the gathering crowd was looking at.

The calico cat was thin and mangy, obviously a stray. She looked at the mob with terror in watery yellow eyes and tried pitifully to get up and run, but her front legs were bleeding badly, crushed by a car. The horrified crowd was murmuring about what to do.

I hurried on my way, hoping somebody would call the city Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe Animal Care rushed to the rescue. But maybe not, since this department has only three old vehicles to handle every single call, and no money to fix the vehicles. And, like many city departments, there is a proposed 10 percent budget cutback for Animal Care and Control.

It's unlikely help is coming from Sacramento, with the state budget staring at $26 billion in red ink. Proposed cuts include a $3.2 billion drop for Medicaid and welfare.

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It's hard to make a case for cats with the budget situation so grim. How to divide up the government pie -- animal care or Medicaid? State parks or state universities? Kindergartens or senior centers? There is simply not enough to go around anymore.

With government budget cuts in the news constantly, it's easy to forget what they really mean in our daily lives. They mean closed parks, less health care, bigger class size. They mean less money for animals. Government budgets may be only pieces of paper, but these paper cuts really hurt. And, for every cut, somebody bleeds.

In the budget battle, I hope somebody will advocate for the stray dogs and cats on our city streets, since they cannot speak for themselves.

But whether you are an animal lover or a bus rider, have a library card, worry about food safety or drive on state highways, all of us have something to lose when budgets are cut.

Because when it comes to government services, we are all stray cats of one kind or another.

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With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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