Author questions morality of having pets

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“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.