Monday, June 27, 2011

thoughts on dog ownership

by anonymous

I think of myself as a steward of my pets. They rely on me to meet their basic needs and I enter into a moral contract with myself to do so when I bring them into my home. Because I want to be a good owner to them, I look to provide my charges with more than the basic necessities, so I try to create as enriching an environment for them as I can. I take care to not injure them, frighten them or put them in harm's way. As living creatures, I believe they are entitled to my respect as well as my care for the unique place they occupy in the world.

However, if for any reason they become a danger to my family, I reserve the right to remove them from my home. If the safety or health of a family member is compromised by the presence of our animals, I reserve the right as their owner, as well as an obligation, to find a suitable alternate living situation for them. If I, as their owner, deem them unsafe to all around them, I, as their owner, reserve the right to have them humanely euthanized to address a greater need, that is, the safety of those who would come into contact with them. If I deem my pet is suffering and beyond the medical care that would sustain a quality life for them, I reserve the right as their owner to have them humanely euthanized.

Whether we like it or not, pets are property. We can legally buy them. We can legally sell them. In many circumstances, we can legally give them away if we choose. We are permitted to cage them, tether them, ban them from certain areas. We are not bound by law to provide them with education or enrichment. And unfortunately, because they are our property, there exist far too many opportunities for people to abuse their rights and responsibilities as owners.

For too many in the rescue world, though, a belief exists that a dog's rights should somehow eclipse that of the humans who own them. When one starts thinking in this way, it's a logical trajectory from stewardship to antipathy-induced blindness toward the actual rights of humans.

Someone once shared with me his experiences as a child around dogs from another era:

About 65 years ago, this person relates that he played regularly with a crowd of neighborhood kids. He says that an ever-changing collection of dogs followed him and his friends daily in their travels, just at the perimeter of their play area. The kids always had some sort of food with them, and he said they'd sometimes share with the dogs. These dogs were not feral, they were owned by neighbors and known to the kids. He relates that very few people where he grew up during that time paid their dogs much mind. The dogs were typically let out in the morning, had run of the neighborhood, were fed by trashcans, kids and kind souls and then made their way to their homes in the evenings. During the day, they met up with and hung out with other dogs, often on the periphery of where the kids where playing.

The kids would acknowledge them and sometimes interact with them. Once in a while, he tells me, a dog would seriously bite a kid without provocation. He said there were no questions asked and the result was always the same. The police were called and the dog was dispatched on site. He said that often, it was the dog's owner who, once notified, would call the police. It was done publicly and quickly. He said it was always sad, and everyone felt badly whenever it happened. But he said there was an unspoken and informal understanding among the members of the community - the dogs were supposed to be safe. If they weren't, their life was forfeit. No rehabilitation. No rescue. No demands. No excuses.

He's incredulous at the amount of attacks reported in present day society, when, in his eyes, we as dog owners are so much more involved in their care and welfare.

This is a slice-of-life scenario where the aggressive ones really were culled. I believe this protocol existed because there was no blurred line between whose protection was paramount.


* said...

Several books of literature shows dogs being killed for any transgression on a human and I have family who lived in neighborhoods where this policy ruled.

Seemed to work just fine in those days.

Small Survivors said...

Very caring, humane and sane declaration of pet stewardship!

"For too many in the rescue world, though, a belief exists that a dog's rights should somehow eclipse that of the humans who own them. "

People in rescue seem to get very competitive about who is the most absolutely selfless savior and advocate of rescue animals.

They also believe they have the absolute right to own any animal, keep any animal and as many animals no matter how dangerous they are.

The description of 65 years ago exactly describes theories about one aspect of the human side of genetic shaping the early canid that began living off human food waste dumps to become the domestic dog. The aggressive canids were killed leaving the non-aggressive dogs to reproduce and continue living near humans.

* said...

Here's a story by a fellow blogger in which an owner hangs his pit bull after it attacks a child. I would prefer he shoot the dog to make it more painless; but if that was the best he could do at the time; then that's fine.

Jake said...

Welcome anonymous, it's always nice to hear a sane viewpoint.

@Digger - The article mentions that the defender must stop defending when the immediate threat is past. I've always felt it's important to attack the attacker while it's attacking, for several reasons, but it's psychologically difficult to suddenly stand down as soon as the tide turns. Plus there's the thought that if you don't finish the mutant, it will attack again, and possibly kill.

DubV said...

I couldn't imagine hanging my own dog after an attack. I could have him put down via injection, but I could not stand to do such violence directly to him. Just me.

Jake said...

Same here DubV - if I had to put my dog down it would be with tears and regrets, and as humanely as possible, with her head resting in my lap.

What I was talking about above was tangentially related, a reference to something in the story digger linked to - legal stuff about the line between prudent measures and animal cruelty when dealing with an attacking animal.

DubV said...

Hey Jake, you were clear before. I can't imagine you doing something like that to one of your pets.

Related to your point, if you were fighting a mutant, some prosecutor may try to take you down for not stopping at their arbitrary point. It's like with the Justice for Bear Bear campaign. The prosecutor asked the guy "why didn't you kick the dog first?" As if we owe a menacing animal a few kicks and to try everything possible prior to ending the threat.

Jake said...

Thanks DubV - with respect to Bear Bear the Husky, I think I'd have shot him in the back leg first to see if he would let go. That might well have saved his life and led to some better discipline.

But yeah, the sorts of things the pit nutters say to do when a pit bull attacks (pour water on it, etc) are ridiculously ineffective. It always takes extreme violence to stop a pit bull in the red zone.

* said...

Hey everyone, I found these two things today and I'm sure everyone here will agree that this law needs to be passed.

Both laws inspired by Makayla Woodard and Jakob Clark. Two children who became victims of pit bulls.

Although it's mostly non breed specific, I'm sure the nutters will bitch and moan.

Jake said...

Signed the petition. Interesting discussion going on at the 2nd link...

Lindsey said...

Nutters moan about any dog regulations, whether breed specific or otherwise, because they are well aware that their dogs are the most likely to be impacted by such ordinances.

The description from 65 years ago very closely matches my own experiences in the neighborhood with dogs where I grew up. Back then you never really saw pits or pit mixes as pets and not all that many rottweilers, either.

DubV said...

Lindsey, funny how not long ago it was common sense what breeds were most dangerous. I was taught that as a kid, and what I was told matches bite stats.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on people!

Dog breeding has nothing to do with aggression except in the case of dogfighters culling manbiters...

The owners have caused Pit Bulls to kill nearly 300 Americans. Do not blame the hardworking and tax paying breeders!

Anonymous said...

im sure, as far as the breeders are concerned.....where theres MUCK theres gold.