75. What about keeping pets?
76. What about spaying and neutering?
#75 What about keeping
In a perfect world, all of our efforts would go toward protecting the
habitats of other species on the planet and we would be able to maintain
a "hands off" approach in which we did not take other species
into our family units, but allowed them to develop on their own in the
wild. However, we are far from such a Utopia and as responsible humans
must deal with the results of the domestication of animals. Since many
animals domesticated to be pets have been bred but have no homes, most
AR supporters see nothing wrong with having them as companion animals.
As a matter of fact, the AR supporter may well provide homes for more
unwanted companion animals than does the average person! Similarly, animals
domesticated for agricultural purposes should be cared for.
However, animals in the wild should be left there and not brought into
homes as companions. A cage in someone's house is an unnatural environment
for an exotic bird, fish, or mammal. When the novelty wears off, wild
pets usually end up at shelters, zoos, or research labs. Wild animals
have the right to be treated with respect, and that includes leaving them
in their natural surroundings. --LK
A loving relationship with a proper companion animal, a relationship
that adequately provides for the animal's physical and psychological needs,
is not at all inconsistent with the principles and advocacy of animal
Indeed, animal rights advocates have been leaders in drawing attention
to some of the abuses and neglects of our "beloved" pets. Many
of the taken for granted practices do need to be reexamined and changed.
The questions that animal rights raises about companion animals are important
- Can we maintain animals as companions and still properly address
their needs? Obviously, we can't do this for all animals. For example,
keeping birds in cages denies those creatures their capacity and
inherent need to fly - although parrots who
are adopted after years of non-flight may be comfortable without flight.
In one way it is similar to a child not being able to run - after years
of sitting on a couch a child may not really want to run.
- Is manipulating companion animals for our needs in the the best interests
of the nonhuman animal as well? Tail docking would thus be a practice
to condemn in this regard.
- Might some of our taken-for-granted practices of pet keeping be really
a form of exploitation? Animals in circuses or panhandlers using animals
on the street to get money from passersby would arguably be cases of
- Which attitudes of human caretakers are truly expressions of our
respect and love towards these animals, and which might not be? Exotic
breeding is one example of this kind of abuse, especially when the breeding
results in animals that are at a greater risk for certain diseases or
All that animal rights is really asking is that we consider more deeply
and authentically the practice at hand and whether or not it truly meets
the benchmark that BOTH the needs of human AND nonhuman animals be considered.
The following points should be considered when selecting a companion
Get a companion animal appropriate to your situation--don't keep a big
dog in a flat or small garden. Don't get an animal that will be kept unnecessarily
confined--birds, fish, etc. However, it is a good policy to try to keep
cats inside as much as possible, especially at night, to protect both
the cat and local wildlife.
Allowing a cat to kill for
sport is ethically similar to housing a tiger and letting it out at
night to kill your neighbors' cats and dogs and can't be justified because
it is "natural"
Get your dog or cat from a local pound or
animal group; thousands of animals are destroyed each year by groups such
as the RSPCA. The majority are animals who are lost or dumped. Vicious
animals are not adopted out. By getting an animal from such a source you
will be saving its life and reducing the reliance on breeders.
Finally, get your companion neutered. There is no behavioral or biological
benefit from being fertile or from having a litter. And every pup or kitten
that is produced will need to find a home. --JK
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#76 What about spaying
Ingrid Newkirk writes: "What's happening to our best friends should
never happen even to our worst enemies. With an estimated 80 to 100 million
cats and dogs in this country already, 3,000 to 5,000 more puppies and
kittens are born every hour in the United States--far more than can ever
find good homes. Unwanted animals are dumped at the local pound or abandoned
in woods and on city streets, where they suffer from starvation, lack
of shelter and veterinary care, and abuse. Most die from disease, starvation,
and mistreatment, or, if they're lucky are 'put to sleep' forever at an
The point is that the practice of neutering and spaying prevents far
more suffering and harm than it imposes on the neutered or spayed animals.
The net harm is minimized. --DG
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