Author questions morality of having pets

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

“A better question would be: Should everyone be allowed to have pets?”

With the state of American politics these days, I’ve come across plenty of reading material that has simultaneously left me speechless and sent my blood pressure through the roof. But when I found this story I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry — and it has nothing to do with politics.

The Miami Herald article I discovered was just one of dozens written about a new book called Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. In it, the author, Jessica Pierce, questions whether it is ethical for people to have pets.

“When we see our cats gazing wistfully out the window, or watch a goldfish swim lazy circles in a bowl, we can’t help but wonder: are we doing the right thing, keeping these independent beings locked up, subject to our control,” she asks in the Herald. “Is keeping pets actually good for the pets themselves?”

As you all know, I have a cat and love animals as much as — or maybe more — than most. But with all due respect to Pierce, this is one of the most ridiculous, stupid, idiotic things I have ever heard. I am not quite sure if it is an extreme case of political correctness, an extreme case of anthropomorphism or both.

A More Relevant Question

In her book, Pierce admits that most people do treat animals well but claims others “take them for granted,” or “think they are disposable.”

Sadly it is true that many people neglect, abuse, and abandon companion animals that require love, food, shelter and medical care in order to thrive. So to me, the pertinent question is not whether it is ethical to have pets, but whether everyone should be allowed to have them.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Clearly the answer to that question is a resounding, “no.”

Some people shouldn’t have pets because they are selfish. Some people shouldn’t have pets because they are irresponsible. Some people shouldn’t have pets because they are emotionally incapable of having them, and others shouldn’t have pets because they are financially incapable of having them.

Then there are the people who shouldn’t have pets because they are just plain evil. These are the people who have dogs and either engage in or sanction dog fighting. These are people who take advantage of dog breeds with aggressive tendencies. These are the people who leave their pets locked up in cages, crates or carriers all day. These are the people who abuse, abandon and neglect companion animals. These are the people who run puppy mills. These are the people who believe in killing animals for fun.

Taking Proper Precautions

I didn’t get any of my cats from a pet store, so I don’t know if there are screening processes in place for people who do that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve heard and read, I don’t think there is. If there isn’t, maybe it is time to rethink that.

I’m also unfamiliar with what’s involved with getting a purebred animal directly from a breeder. I assume that legitimate breeders do what they can to make sure puppies, kittens, and other animals end up in good homes. Again, feel free to let me know if this is the case.

As far as adopting from a shelter or rescue group goes, I can only speak from personal experience. When I adopted Eli from the Fauquier SPCA in 2008, I had to fill out some pretty extensive paperwork and pay an adoption fee before I could bring him home.

Prospective adopters had lots of dogs to choose from at the annual Puttin on the Dog show in Greenwich last fall. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Pick me! An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at Puttin’ on the Dog in Greenwich. September 2015. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

At the local animal shelter where I volunteer, there is a comprehensive screening process in place to ensure successful matches. Prospective adopters must fill out and submit an application which includes specific information. References are required and checked before an adoption goes through. In the interest of full disclosure, specific information about each dog — including their background, age and compatibility with children and other animals — is also listed on the shelter’s website.

As Far As I’m Concerned…

Personally, I’ll never feel guilty about having a pet. In fact, with so many dogs and cats in need of a good home, the only thing I’ll ever feel badly about is that there’s no way to save them all.



How a newspaper with Trump ties (allegedly) crossed the line

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I must admit, the Washington Examiner has been a wonderful source for blog fodder lately.

A recent edition included a story about a reporter, Ross Barkan, who just left the New York Observer.  In the article, Barkan told T. Becket Adams that “a buildup of a variety of factors” prompted his decision.

Even so, Barkan’s resignation came soon after the Observer — or more accurately, its editorial board — endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The timing prompted widespread speculation that the endorsement was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The endorsement definitely did not unfold like I thought it would, given that we are so closely tied to Trump,” Barkan told the Examiner.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the publisher of the Observer. So it really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the publication backed the controversial candidate. And speaking as someone who was a newspaper reporter for more than 21 years, it  really isn’t a big deal. Editorial boards endorse candidates all the time. The only time it constitutes a breach of journalistic ethics is when the board actively tries to influence the way reporters cover the political process.

Crossing The Line

What is far more disturbing is the number of published reports that Kushner and the Observer’s editor-in-chief Ken Kurson, actively participated in the preparation of a speech Trump made in March.

As Barkan so aptly put it: “The editor-in-chief should not be reviewing a speech for a presidential candidate, not matter who that presidential candidate is: Trump, Bernie, Kasich, I don’t care.”

I absolutely agree. If it is true — and at this point there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe it isn’t — it is at best a blatant conflict of interest. At worst… Well, there’s just no polite way to put it, so I will leave it up to your imagination.

If it is true — and I only say if given Mr. Trump’s propensity for suing people and his followers’ propensity for physical violence — it is disgusting and disappointing. But again, it is hardly surprising.

In my 20-plus years working at community newspapers in three states, I had a few good editors. They worked hard. They played by the rules. They actually believed in fairness, accuracy and objectivity. (Yes, I’m serious. You can stop laughing now.) They were good mentors, good people and good friends.

I also worked for some really, really, really, bad editors. (I’m not kidding. They were horrible.) As far as I could tell, they really only cared about only two things:

  1. Using the newspaper (and its staff) to advance their own political philosophies and agendas.
  2. Getting the story first — at any and all costs.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, I assure you that isn’t the case. I could give specific examples. I could tell stories that would make you cringe. I could give blow-by-blow accounts of behavior that I witnessed, recount conversations in which I was personally targeted for standing up to these workplace bullies and so forth. But we all know that wouldn’t be very smart, so I won’t go there.

The Worst Job In America

Given everything I’ve told you — and what I’ve left unsaid — does it really come as a shock that “newspaper reporter” just ranked as the worst job in America for the third year in a row?

Reasons given for this dubious distinction in an article republished on, include an average salary of $37,200 and projected job growth in negative numbers.

An average salary of roughly $37,000? That’s rich. In my 20-plus years on the job I never made more than $28,000 per year. On the other hand, an average work week was at least 50 hours. More often than not, I worked more than 60 hours per week. Obviously, I didn’t make any overtime.

All of that being stated, the job was rewarding in other ways. I won 11 Virginia Press Association awards and one New York Press Association award. More importantly, I won the respect and admiration of readers and sources.

And once upon a time, I actually loved what I did.

At the time, that made it all worthwhile.