An anti-dog movement? No, really!

What do words mean? What is ownership? What is property? If you have a dog or a cat, are you the owner?

Maybe not.

There's a growing movement to remove words like "pet" and "owner" and replace them with the legal term "guardian."

Before you laugh at what might appear to be mere semantics of interest to no one except activist windbags who love hearing themselves prattle on till the wee hours at city commission hearings, consider that this word change is already a fait accompli via legislation which has been passed in many places, including:

- Sherwood, AR,
- innumerable California cities including Albany, Berkeley, 28 cities in Marin County, San Francisco, Sebastopol, and West Hollywood
- Boulder, CO
- Amherst, MA
- St. Louis, MO
- Wanaque, NJ
- the entire state of Rhode Island
- Menomonee Falls, WI
This growing trend has many in the veterinary profession already worried.

The University of Pennsylvania's Susan I. Finkelstein has written an article titled "High Noon for Animal Rights Law: The Coming Showdown Between Pet Owners and Guardians" which should raise more eyebrows than it has. (Here's a backup link to the same story.) Among other things, Finkelstein warns:

Taking the “pet guardian” issue to its logical conclusion, many critics believe the elimination of property status for pets will ultimately result in the elimination of keeping companion animals at all. Animals themselves, they conclude, would suffer the most from the good intentions of animal rightists.

Obviously, a central concern of veterinarians is that this will drive up the cost of veterinary practice. But long term, the idea is to work towards elimination of the keeping of animals by man in any way shape or form. This has long been a central philosophical goal of the animal rights movement (as distinguished from the animal welfare movement). A perfect example of this philosophy is this 1993 statement by Wayne Pacelle (no fringe loony BTW; he's the current President of the Humane Society of the United States):

"One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. The are creations of human selective breeding."

"We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding."

[Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice-President of HSUS, formerly of Friends for Animals; Quoted in Animal People, May, 1993]

I don't know how many people realize it, but there's a major campaign going on right now against dog breeding. As so typifies activism, it's incremental in nature, and here the focus is on things we're said to agree on like dog "overpopulation" and on people we hate (such as operators of puppy mills). But long term, the goal is to criminalize all breeding of animals. Dogs and cats should not be owned or (especially) bred. Purebred dogs are simply more evidence of man's ultimately evil relationship with animals.

What's fascinating about this is that the animals haven't been consulted about their right to breed (a right they don't have, but to which I devoted a long essay) or even their right to life. What sort of "guardian" advocates extinction of his wards?

The American Kennel Club's Dr. James Holt thinks the problem stems from confusion, in that ordinary animal lovers believe that "animal rights" activists are people like themselves, but more passionate. They couldn't be more wrong. From a speech titled "Could canis familiaris be the next endangered species?"

When I start talking about the animal rights extremists, most people are totally unaware that pet ownership is one of their targets. Many people know of the animal rights opposition to fur and leather, many are aware of the opposition to hunting, or at least to certain forms of hunting, some know about the animal rights opposition to animal agriculture, or at least to veal, and a few know about the animal rights opposition to the use of animals in medical and biological research.

While many people are aware of these targets of the animal rights movement, most ordinary people do not feel immediately threatened by the extremists, because research, agriculture and even hunting and fur are things that are removed from the daily experience of most people. But the general population is almost totally unaware of the animal rights opposition to pet ownership. Even many dog owners, fanciers and breeders don't understand the animal rights movement's position on pet ownership. If they have any awareness about it at all, they assume the opposition is to 'puppy mills' or dog fighting or animal cruelty. Most pet owners, and even many members of the purebred dog fancy, assume that the organizations we know as the animal rights movement are made up of animal lovers more or less just like them, albeit perhaps a bit more zealous. They are shocked to learn that the radical animal rights movement opposes the mere keeping of a pet as "animal fascism." Most of my purebred dog colleagues have never heard the term natural dog – the term animal rights activists use to refer to what we call mutts, and their dismissal of purebred dogs as "unnatural" dogs.

(For more on the evil of purebred dogs, read this interview with Dr. Michael Fox of HSUS.)

Actually, even mutts are bad, as the entire species we call Canis familiaris is man's creation, and was bred for centuries in violation of the animal rights philosophy.

In other words, dogs are unnatural creatures. There should be no such animal. Eliminating breeding of purebred dogs is only a first step (along with neutering all dogs, of course) towards a world of no domesticated dogs.

While it's very tough to get real statistics (a fact that always works to the benefit of activists), I see increasing evidence that there's been such a dramatic reduction in the canine population that adoption agencies are using new methods to come up with adoptable dogs:

Nationwide, studies show that during the last 30 years shelter intakes and euthanasias have decreased by 70-90 percent or more in many cities, particularly those located on the east and west coasts. One consequence of this remarkable development is a steep decline in the number of shelter dogs available for adoption in many parts of the country. In order to deal with their newfound success, some shelters and rescue groups have had to realign their efforts, sometimes with surprising results.

Faced with fewer small dogs and puppies to offer the public, a handful of shelters and organizations have swapped their traditional mission for a new bottom line strategy aimed at filling consumer demands. Simply stated, they have become pet stores. Some are importing stray dogs across state lines and from foreign countries to maintain an inventory of adoptable dogs.

The above quotation is from Patti Strand, author of The Hijacking of the Humane Movement: Animal Extremism. (As the NAIA notes elsewhere, a distinction should be made between dogs and cats; the latter are in surplus because of the huge feral population.)

A future without canis familiaris? Instead only wild dogs for us to contemplate -- from a respectful distance?

No! I refuse to submit to this nonsense.

Whether they're mutts or purebred, dogs are uniquely ours. They're both animals and part of what we are as human beings. Those who work against this symbiotic relationship are neither friends of animals nor of human civilization.

MORE: Readers who keep birds should read this.

MORE: Interesting Randian analysis of "animal rights" by Russell Madden:

Rand defines a right as: "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life." ("Man's Rights," p. 93.) She goes on to point out that rights pertain only to actions, that is, to the freedom to act; it is a freedom from direct or indirect "physical compulsion, coercion, or interference by other" people. For the individual, a right is a positive: it is a freedom to act. For others, "rights impose no obligations...except of a negative kind": to refrain from violating the rights of another.

Animals do not need nor are they capable of using ethics. They do not need to discover the proper behaviors required for their individual existences. Those actions have been programmed genetically through the process of evolution. They therefore do not have anything needing to be protected by rights in a social context.

Ethics and morality are applicable only to beings who possess a volitional, conceptual, rational consciousness. Since rights are an extension of ethics/morality, they are therefore applicable only to such beings possessing free will, and, more specifically, only to individual people. Only the rights of the individual exist: there are no gay rights or women's rights or Black rights or handicapped rights or the rights of the unborn.

If the right to life is the fundamental right (from which other rights derive), then why aren't animal rights advocates chaining themselves to the doors of their local pounds (or "liberating" captive animals) to stop the slaughter?

MORE: A chilling look at how the word "guardian" will be used.

posted by Eric on 03.10.06 at 08:40 AM


I had a discussion once with a PeTA activist who didn't even know there was an anti-pet movement or what PeTA had to say on the issue. (they're against pets but don't publicize that issue much)

Adam   ·  March 10, 2006 1:05 PM

Of course, none of this applies to cats, as it's well known that cats own their people and not the other way around.

Beck   ·  March 10, 2006 1:25 PM

John, my bias favors dogs, but cat lovers might try reading this:

Eric Scheie   ·  March 10, 2006 1:50 PM

Without puppy mills, where will we get puppy meal and puppy flour?

And without puppy meal, how will we make hush-puppies?

Think of our culinary heritage!

Sigivald   ·  March 10, 2006 3:40 PM

That's weird, PETA is a strange bird (pun intended).

Still, they're are now alot of problems with inbreeding to keep 'pure' dog populations, I have heard of german shephards having serious hip trouble (and are a little more aggressive) lately because of over inbreeding.

I don't know if it's true, but that's what I've heard

alchemist   ·  March 10, 2006 3:58 PM

The first time someone sues for "petimony" under this "guardianship" status, and I'll give Iran a nuclear missile.

j.d.   ·  March 10, 2006 4:19 PM

Another great post. I wish the MSM would vet these groups and publicize this kind of stuff.

Only a person who has never loved a dog could be against dog ownership... only a person living in world of dark fantasy, a Bizzaro World utopia, could think humans shouldn't love dogs and vice versa.

It reminds me of the movie Hidalgo- at the end he lets HIdgalgo go- as if Higalgo WOULD go, as if the horse would be better off, as if the horse will be in a more natural state or end up in a less hierarchichal relationship.

All exactly wrong.

Harkonnendog   ·  March 10, 2006 4:47 PM

Ummmm, you do realize that Hidalgo was fiction right?

alchemist   ·  March 10, 2006 6:07 PM

Did anybody else read the interview with Dr. Fox? If you've watched any South Park, you won't be able to keep the "Aging Hippie Liberal Douche" voice out of your head as your read along.

Anonymous   ·  March 10, 2006 9:46 PM

You think that was bad, try this:

"The life of an ant and the life of my child should be granted equal consideration."
Eric Scheie   ·  March 10, 2006 10:18 PM

It's easy to dismiss the PETA people as crazies, because... well, they ARE crazy. I think that the real value of the animal rights movement is that it shows clearly just how silly the very notion of a "right" is. As soon as we start declaring moral absolutes of this particular kind, we have set ourselves up for moral quandaries such as those raised by the animal rights people. We all know perfectly well that animals don't have rights in the sense that Locke meant. Yet, it does get tricky drawing a line between humans and animals. And we consider it unacceptable for a member of our society to torture helpless animals.

My own opinions about this? We should treat animals with a basic sense of decency, especially those that we have shaped to love and depend upon us. Above all, we should not kill them wantonly. This is where I have a problem with breeders. There are only so many homes for animals. For every animal born to a breeder, one must die in a shelter. The notion that bred animals are better than mongrels is ignorant and silly, not far different from the notion that aristocrats are a better class of people than peasants. Hence, if I were king, I'd put an end to commercial breeding of cats and dogs. Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to make it illegal to sell a cat or a dog. You can give one away, but you can't sell it. That would change things for the better, I think.

Erasmussimo   ·  March 11, 2006 12:16 AM

I have no problem with animal welfare or animal cruelty laws; only the concept of animal rights.

But I have to take issue with the statement that "for every animal born to a breeder, one must die in a shelter." Isn't that an overly static analysis? If someone wants a Dalmation or a Dachsund, but not a dog from the pound, from where derives the assumption that the breeder of Dalmations is dooming an animal that this buyer did not want?

If there weren't any breeders, there would be no purebred dogs (which are a result of domestication), and I think that would be a bad thing. For man and dog.

And why stop with limiting the breeding of dogs? Why not pigs, gerbils, sheep?

Eric Scheie   ·  March 11, 2006 8:09 AM

Eric, you're quite right about the demand for dogs and cats not being fixed. I considered the point but was too lazy to think of a clean way to express it. It's more accurate to say something like, "For every dog that is bred, 0.7 dogs must die in a shelter." I don't know the true value; it could well be less. On the other hand, the demand for purebred animals is to a large extent driven by the fallacy that purebred animals are better than mongrels. Even the terminology (purebred, mongrel) is prejudicial.

Here's another way to look at it: Let's just assume that I'm of pure Aryan stock. Blonde hair, blue eyes, tall, the whole schmeer. You, however, are a mongrel: some English ancestry, a bit of Irish, a little Italian, etc. Would you then concede that my purebred nature makes me in ANY way superior to you?

This is the real nub of the issue: what makes a purebred animal better than a mongrel? The pattern of spots on its coat? Lots of mongrels have spotted coats. The length of its legs? Intelligence? Loyalty? Although it is possible to assert that any given purebred is better than any other given purebred in any particular trait, that doesn't extendt to the comparison between a purebred and a mongrel. Some purebred dogs are immensely intelligent -- but there are mongrels every bit as intelligent. Some purebred dogs have short legs -- but so do some mongrels.

Now, you could counterargue that the mongrels have these characteristics because of the efforts of past breeders. I agree. But population genetics and artificial selection is tricky business. The problem here is that artificial selection always yields inadvertent undesirable traits. Lots and lots of dogs and cats have congenital health problems, especially in areas that aren't immediately visible: hip displasia, weak cruciate ligaments, predisposition to diabetes, and on and on and on. I have a friend who, against my advice, bought a purebred Welsh Corgi, who now makes regular visits to the vet for half a dozen different ailments.

The fundamental problem here is the fact that the modern breeder does not obtain all the information on the results of his/her efforts. The modern breeder sees only the obvious external traits of the animal in its first few months of life. Therefore, the modern breeder has no way of knowing whether his artificial selection is yielding beneficial results. The ancient breeder bred for himself; he saw the complete life history of the animals he bred, and was therefore able to obtain more reliable results.

Erasmussimo   ·  March 11, 2006 11:33 AM

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