Pet Dogs & Other Dilemmas
“Is keeping dogs as pets ethical?”
I asked this question in my Facebook group on Good Guardianship yesterday, and the range of answers were fascinating.
We humans are obsessed and totally invested in the animals we have domesticated in one way or another. We have taken animals who were once wild, self-sufficient and free, then made them reliant on us for most things.
It’s not only pet animals who have been tweaked, changed and used for our benefit though. Animals are farmed intensively, pigs, cows and sheep might not be on your list of priorities as a dog lover, but they should be, and they soon will be. Human consciousness is changing and it’s doing so quickly. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest reasons for climate change, animal sentience in undeniable and more human hearts are opening up to and realising this every hour of every day. There’s a shift happening, and we will see an avalanche of compassion in our lifetimes, isn’t that amazing?
But what of the domestic dog?
Dogs are now in the year 2021 one of the most popular domesticated animal, we have changed them. They have become our friends, our allies even, there’s no doubt that we love them. Yet when we live with them and start asking the unavoidable questions about ethics, how right is it to have domestic dogs as pets?
Dogs are captive animals in the Western World. We decide when they walk, etc …
Dogs are considered property and vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Dogs are bred until they can breed no more, by money focussed dog farmers who are licenced by local councils.
Dogs are trained with brutal methods.
Even the most loved dog has their entire environment managed, even if it’s managed for them to have the best life possible, they are still far less than the free animal they once were.
What about who they eat?
Feeding dogs is another dilemma. Dogs generally tend to eat meat, the science tells us that they need to eat meat. They certainly seem to want to eat meat, yet they are eating the same animals that we do. It’s undeniable that pet dogs are contributing to climate change and animal exploitation through farming.
The other option is to impose a vegan diet on domestic dogs, but would they choose that? I tried it many times, mine didn’t. Then we are stuck between not providing the captive dog with the food they would choose or contributing to exploitation and the human effect on this struggling planet.
But then, what of all the dogs who are already here? The neglected and over bred, the rescues and the bereaved. We must take care of them, that goes without saying -they are here, and they need help.
In addition, there are people determined to keep breeding dogs, so there will always be homeless dogs while dogs are bred from. Breeding is the start of a cycle that has to be questioned at some point. Breeding dogs will at some point be brought under control, a thing that dog rescuers have been saying for years. But now with the need to have less impact on the planet around us maybe now, finally, something will be done.
As for my opinion, it’s changing as I learn and grow. Never will it change from teaching people to understand the dogs in their homes and treat/teach them kindly. But I am starting to realise that the cost of having pet dogs is a high one. It means we take the lives of other animals to feed them, or we take away more of their already limited choice. It reminds me of the vegan saying, “is your (dog’s) food choice worth someone’s life” and it’s not straightforward.
With 4 small dogs who I love dearly, and a world of dogs who have been forced to rely on us through then abandoned by us, will I have another after these have gone? You know I think I would probably rather not – because I love and respect dogs and I love the animals they want to eat too.
Yet, if the breeders keep breeding and the dogs keep needing, it’s likely that I will keep rescuing.
Simply because they are here now, and somebody has to.