Yesterday I called attention to an article written by Jon Katz regarding is opinion about how we care for animals in society today. I got a flood of interesting comments on the blog post and on our Facebook page about it. It is clearly a hot topic.
Honestly, I didn’t make any statements myself. Instead I paraphrased what Katz said and asked what people thought. An overwhelming majority thought yes, sometimes we are going too far when it comes to protecting animals. I tend to agree.
I am not talking about protecting our OWN animals, although Katz himself takes some stabs at those who spend “ridiculous” amounts of money on veterinary care for their pets. Unlike Katz, I don’t think one can go “too far” when caring for their own pet. There are amazing technologies and products out there meant to help protect and prolong the lives of our pets. Many of these things would have been considered “extreme” even 5 years ago. I think that everyone has the right to choose the most progressive, costly technology available to their pet if they want to or protect them in the way they see fit.
I am talking about how we think other people should treat their pets and the extremes some people go to to make themselves heard and impose their beliefs on others.
I certainly think that some interjection is necessary. I was a very uneducated pet parent once and made a lot of mistakes. I probably needed someone more experienced to point out some of the “improvements” I could make. The treatment of animals today is far better than it was 30 years ago and it’s because people had the guts to speak up. Basic animal rights like not being abused, tortured, starved, drowned, etc are very important rights to protect.
Even the “every individual has the right do what they want with their own pet” thing is tricky. I think society was largely in that place 30 years ago and look how many dog fighting rings there were, were being left chained in the back yard to starve, and who were being beaten on a regular basis. And it all was because the people responsible for doing these things didn’t think it was wrong.
A wise person told me once, “People generally don’t do what they think is wrong.”. People doing “wrong” things have justified it in their mind somehow or truly don’t feel it was wrong in the first place. I don’t think they should be let to go about their “bad” business under the premise that people should not interfere with their rights.
Those are extreme cases but I believe there are less extreme cases that might also warrant outside interference. For example, a dog locked in a hot car that is showing clear signs of distress or has collapsed. I do believe that someone has the right to call the police and give the owner a stern talking to. The keys here though are HOT car and CLEAR DISTRESS. I am glad the message is getting out about dogs in hot cars but some people have taken that to mean “any dog in any car”.
For example, I left Chester and Gretel in the car the other day when it was “hot”.
I stopped to get a burger with my husband on the way back from a hike. It was maybe pushing 75 degrees and dogs were not allowed on the patio. We had been driving for a while with the AC blasting and I knew my well-insulated car would stay cool for the 20 minutes that it was parked in the shade.
The car was right next to the patio so we could see all of the windows had the dogs started showing any signs of distress. My husband checked on them several times while we were eating. They slept the majority of the time.
Eventually a gentleman on the patio asked, “Do you want me to call the cops?” I assumed he thought we were good Samaritans worried about the dogs and responded, “Oh, those are our dogs. They are fine”. It was then clear what he was saying was, “I see you left your dogs in the car when the sun is out. You are a lousy pet owner and I am going to call the cops on you” when he continued to make negative remarks to us about it.
I assured him that it was still cool in the car. He said, “If it’s so cool then why aren’t you sitting in there with them?” When I tried to lighten the conversation by making a joke about Chester trying to rip my face off to get to the burger if I sat in there, he told me that I was irresponsible. When I explained to him that I am a hyper-vigilant pet owner and would never put them in danger, he continued to berate me under his breath.
I ignored him and he eventually left but the situation made me feel uneasy. However, I thought it was a good indicator that the message is getting out to the general public about leaving dogs in hot cars. Although I thought he could have been more polite, and let it go when I pointed out that my dogs were in no way in distress, he had every right to ask me and I am glad he felt comfortable enough doing so.
Leaving dogs in hot cars to die is a very clear “no-no” and has resulted in many deaths. Some things are more of an opinion though. Take the case of what to feed your dog.
For those few of you who are not aware, there is a very hot debate in the dog-food world about the choice to feed a dog kibble or raw food. There are compelling reasons why to do it, and why not to do it, on both sides.
As a blogger, I live most of my life with Chester and Gretel “in the public eye” for others to scrutinize. A couple of years ago I was transitioning them to grain-free kibble and I wrote about our journey. One particular woman, very passionate about raw feeding, stalked by blog for months. She left me comments, and responded to other comments on my blog, basically saying that we were abusing our animals by choosing to feed them kibble (a few times she literally said that too). She was relentless and her aggressiveness increased as things went on.
I have done enough research on raw feeding vs. kibble to know that it largely comes down to personal preference. At the very least, choosing to feed one over the other is not a sure death sentence. Unlike dogs locked in hot cars, very few have died as the result of feeding one or the other (taking food categories here – not statements about particular foods). Still, many people feel the need to aggressively “inform” people that their choice is the wrong one. Politely educating is one thing but they are clearly trying to force their beliefs on others.
I think it’s important, when trying to “educate” people about their actions, that people take a step back first. Taking a step back helps one make rational decisions instead of act from pure emotion and self-centeredness. It’s not always easy to do but I can say I’ve done way more things I am not proud of in the heat of the moment than ones that were effective, made me feel good, and made a real difference. I think people can step in while still being polite and respectful. Instead of assuming the worst and being forceful, know the message is usually better received when there is some respect and politeness and when more questions are asked to truly understand the situation.
It also comes down to is a person’s definition of “harm”. All people are never going to agree on what that is when it’s in the grey area. Myself, I define harm as imminent death or a high likelihood severe, permanent damage and tend to err on the side of other people’s rights. Some people think that leaving a dog in a car any time is “harmful” because someone could break the window and steal their dog. Some people think that you should never, ever let your dog eat an onion while others don’t panic unless the dog has eaten a lot of them. Some don’t think a dog should be allowed to ride with their head out the window because something might poke their eye out.
In the end, do I think some people are going too far when it comes to animal rights and forcing their beliefs onto others? Yes, some are. If all of the comments I got yesterday about this are any indication, I am not alone. Some people are taking their personal beliefs and pushing them on others. Other people are appropriately speaking up but doing it in a very inappropriate and ineffective ways.
Do I think that people also have the right to speak up when they feel something is wrong or someone is doing harm to their pet? Yes, yes I do. I know if I saw someone abusing their pet or found one about to pass out in a hot car I would definitely step in.
As with everything in life, I think it comes down the particular situation and circumstances.