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On the Having of “Pets”

I was going to get into the "pet owner" versus "pet guardian" debate, until I realized it’s based on the premise that it’s okay to have "pets" (i.e., animals kept for our amusement or companionship).

Ideally, every species would live in the manner in which it was designed to live and in the environment in which it was designed to live. And all would would be good.

But the real world in 2006 is a bit sketchier.

  • Nonhuman animals live in countries they shouldn’t be living in because we brought them there (the same is true of many plants)
  • They are continuously pushed away from where they are living by our obsession with developing and drilling and extracting
  • The cat and dog overpopulation problem is largely our creation

Given these facts, it seems like the humane thing to do is to intervene in the lives of the tame nonhuman animals that we already have a history with. Read: cats and dogs.

Humans have created calamitous problems for cats and dogs:

  1. We play God by continually producing breeds that shouldn’t exist
  2. We breed and breed and inbreed them, which produces dogs and cats who are less healthy, more prone to behavior problems, and have shorter life expectancies
  3. We don’t spay and neuter

The overpopulation problem is a direct result of our actions, and we are morally obligated to fix it. Providing loving, safe, stimulating homes for them is part of that plan.

But I wonder if it should be, as many people cannot be trusted to provide a loving, safe, and stimulating environment.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. These are my two favorite resources on owning pets:

    An Angry Veterinarian, Dr. Charles Danten

    Fit to Be Tamed by Lee Hall
    "Perhaps we could gain an insight into our love of pets by considering U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brennan's observation in the 1976 case Frontiero vs. Richardson that our long history of patriarchal dominion "was rationalized by an attitude of 'romantic paternalism' which, in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage." For centuries, well-meaning and otherwise-intelligent men had this attitude. They may have thought, "I'm not part of an oppressive paradigm; I love women, and I love my wife." Personal affection for individual women doesn't disprove the existence of institutionalized oppression. Such affection shows that reasonable, ethically minded people can have substantial blind spots. And if this is so, couldn't it also be the case that well-meaning people have, also for centuries, had a similar blind spot with regard to other animals?"

    January 29, 2007

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