More about the dogs


Intrigued by Belinda's comparison of my position on pet breeding and that of PeTA (in the comments to my last dog post), I decided to delve a bit more into things. A good starting place was Belinda's own anti-PeTA post from October. Then I checked out PeTA's website to make sure Belinda was portraying their views correctly, and I think she is. In addition to being against animal research and wearing or eating animals, PeTA is also conceptually against pets (or, if you prefer "companion animals") and believes that they should not be intentionally bred.

So, while PeTA and I apparently do share the view that the domestication of animals for the purpose of human companionship was wrong, that's about all we have in common. For one thing, I'm not a vegetarian (although I don't eat pork). For another, I am not against all animal research (though I am against cosmetic testing on animals, certain kinds of inhumane research, and primate research). But really the question is how much of PeTA's view on pets I share...

I agree, on a basic philosophical level, that it was incredibly selfish of humans to domesticate animals for companionship. I understand domestication for food and for work, as those were at one point near necessities, and are still at least useful. Domestication for the purposes of companionship, however, was just a qualify of life improvement measure. Please understand that I say this as someone who has two dogs and a cat, whom she loves with all of her heart. I don't think owning pets is wrong--the animals have already been domesticated, we can't go back. I just think it was a mistake to domesticate in the first place.

A related but semi-seperate issue is my view on breeding pets and buying pets from breeders. My primary reason for opposing this is our society's huge pet overpopulation problem. I believe that we, as human beings, are responsible for the well-being of the entirety of this domestic pet population, which is a monster of our own creation. It is stupid and negligent, given pet overpopulation, to intentionally create more pets. I understand the appeal of it--people are attached to certain breeds and lineages, to dog shows, to getting puppies, to getting health and temperment guarantees, etc.--but those advantages of bred pets pale in my mind in comparison to saving the lives of already existing pets, which is what rescue does. That's why I favor legislation against pet breeding. While I understand that the logical outcome of this could be no pets at all, I don't really see that happening, because that would require perfect compliance with the law, which is ridiculous. My concern is much more literal than theoretical here--once there are no more homeless pets in shelters, or at least a very marked decrease, I'd have to revisit my position on breeding. I don't think that stopping breeding with the eventual goal of eradicating the domestic species of dogs and cats is a really reasonable goal, and it's not my goal. My goal is to stop breeding while so many pets die.

On a personal and practical note, this is what it boils down to: I will never purchase a pet. I will make an effort to rescue pets that might otherwise be put down. I will strongly encourage my friends and family to adopt pets from shelters and rescues rather than buying them. At some point, I may put myeslf on the list for breed specific rescues, since there are particular breeds to which I am attracted. My primary focus, though, is on adopting pets that might otherwise not make it. And so far, that's been a pretty damn succesful way to go about things. Which I will now prove to you, with picture of my dogs, both rescues, in party hats.

Oh, and one more thing about PeTA--they support pit bull breed bans. As anybody who's been reading WINOW for long knows, I am admantly, totally, vitrolically against that. So screw PeTA.


I don't agree with all your current views about the pet legislation, however, when you speak about purchasing a dog or to rescue a dog I completly agree. I have always told friends and family that there is no need to purchase a dog, though this does not mean it will not cost money. Rescues and Shelters often charge fees, but when you pay these fees you are encouraging the abatement of an overpopulated pet market. If you pay money to a breeder, your money encourages the continual overpopulation. There are simply too many wonderful dogs available at shelters to even think about ever purchasing one from a breeder. - Doofy Dog

Indeed. Which parts don't you agree with?

Beautiful! And dogs in party hats clinch ANY argument! (here is where I would type the universally understood acronym for "Laughing Out Loud," except that it would give me hives to do so, but I did. Laugh out loud at the ending of your post.) You already know where we disagree, so I won't belabor that point. If you compare statistics of dogs in this country compared to AKC registrations...well, the difference is staggering. If you go further and compare number of AKC register dogs with titles versus those without, well, it's even more drastic. So I just think we're better served in attacking the worst of the pet overpopulation problem, which does not sit with ethical breeders. Very nice clarification, very well-stated, and just overall well-done. I don't have anything new to add, just wanted to give some applause. I find it refreshing and heartening when we as people can disagree with each other and still appreciate each other. And address *issues* and not personalities. Brava.

I would still like someone to explain the difference between a pet animal and a food animal to me. Is a pet animal a food animal that someone loves? Aren't you just anthropomorphizing someone's dinner? Is it wrong to eat dogs that have had to be euthanized because nobody would adopt them because they disdain dogs with dirty blood?

I hope all these comments with negative components won't taken collectively as an attack. You've characterized your views as "extreme", though, and seem to be open to discussion about it, so I thought I'd throw in my one-cents worth. Specifically, you've mentioned that you think our original domestication of animals was selfish and a mistake. I disagree with this for a couple of reasons. First, I would venture to guess that animals--especially dogs--weren't originally domesticated intentionally. I think there was some sort of benefit to both species from hanging around each other (e.g., mutual protection, shared food/shelter), and eventually this led into a concerted effort on the part of humans to breed the hell out of them when they discovered they could exploit and enhance certain traits. Breeding the hell out of them may have been selfish and a mistake, but the original domestication may have been beneficial to--and "chosen" by, insofar as either species was able to/did choose this consciously--both species. Those benefits continue to this day. If you think of surviving the longest as being a sign of success of a species, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, and sheep may have chosen the best route possible, because their habitats are guaranteed to be around a hell of a lot longer than natural savannas & forests where they were originally found (and would continue to live until today if they hadn't been domesticated). Look at how much fun it's been to be a wolf, or a jaguar, or a zebra--starving to death as their available homes and food sources have been driven to near-extinction by human success. Our breeding efforts have often neglected dogs' best interests, but look at how we're neglecting every other species of animal on this planet. In the end, domestication has been the only saving grace for pandas, chimps, elephants, and other cute little zoo animals that we've had to intentionally breed to avoid extinction. Don't like domestication? Then we need to seriously talk about conservation, because domestication is written into the futures of thousands of species that don't stand a chance in the wild. So do I think it sucks that we've bred dogs that can't see, breathe, or walk because we like spots, flat noses, and cute shapes? Of course! Is survival a better outcome than terrific quality of life? That's a huge question. We can't do much for the animals that have already been domesticated, but we're going to have to answer that question every day for wild animals whose only option for survival is domestication.

peta=evil. and they kill a ton of animals. there's a penn and teller bullshit episode about it. i think domesticating animals in the first place was fine. exploitative, yes. but i don't think animals are on the same level as humans, so it doesn't bother me. i think if an animal's only chance is domestication or extinction, then i err on the side of extinction. since when is slavery to the human race better than death? isn't domesticating a species changing it totally? isn't that more wrong than letting nature take its course?

I don't think that domestication is apart from "letting nature take its course". There are plenty of non-human species that exploit other species for their own benefit (and in a lot of these relationships, the "exploited" species also benefits). Lots of humans think that living in a safe, comfortable home with the conveniences of modern medicine and prepared foods is preferable to death or even to living the way our ancestors did, as hunters/gatherers and extremely vulnerable to natural selection. We were the first species to become "domesticated", and it did totally change us. But how can this be progress for ourselves and yet so terrible for other animals that they'd be better off dead?

I actually came back *just* to look at the beautiful dogs in the pink froufy hats. I LOVE them.

Hehe. Aren't they great? It's even funnier when you consider that they are both very large, "masculine" dogs. And they loved those hats. Scand, you are raising good points. I'm thinking about them. Not ignoring them, just not sure yet what I think.

Scand I think it's different because we domesticated ourselves. Dogs and cats didn't choose to be domesticated, or be spayed, or be declawed. We chose that for them. I think saying "oh but they're better off if we take them inside and make them like us." is exactly the rationale used for slavery. don't get me wrong I don't think it's the same, but it is the same rationale. My favorite book as a kid was Shel Silverstein's Lafcadio. It's about a lion who learns to shoot, so the humans take him to NYC and domesticate him. He makes a lot of money but ends up unhappy because he's not a human and not really a lion. It's a great book and, although I didn't think of it until now, really influences my thoughts on this situation. Basically, making anything--person or animal dependent on you where they once were not=exploitative, IMO.

I love Shel Silverstein! I've not read that book, so I'll have to look for it. This is where a time machine would come in handy, to see the process by which animals became domesticated, and whether and how much all these human and non-human species migrated toward each other. It's still hard for me to believe that dogs and cats were passively domesticated. Unfortunately, our differences of opinion are based solely on what we can picture in our heads. I can't ignore, though, that when I turn my cats loose into the outdoors, they always come back (eventually--not always when I'd like them to). Cats and dogs are capable of becoming feral, but if they're well-cared for, they usually won't do that. Some breeds of dogs wouldn't be able to survive in the wild (so I would agree with you that breeding those dogs, who are definitely dependent on us, who have often been bred for aesthetics, and who often suffer from poor health as a consequence, is exploitative) but many breeds of dogs can survive, and I imagine most cats would eventually figure it out, too, so I'm not sure that I believe that they're "dependent" on us. To the extent that they are able, they choose to continue living with us and our modern conveniences now, and I think they've chosen that in the past, as well. Anyhow, I appreciate your explanations of your POV, 'cause they've helped me clarify my own opinions for myself. I hope this discussion is taken in good spirit and not as an attack on anyone's opinions. I realize that my opinions on domesticated animals, as Grace has said of her own, are often considered "extreme".

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