Animal husbandry has been a key part of civilization from its inception. Different breeds of animals have been developed and valued for their suitability for particular places and uses. Jersey cattle are different from Charolais cattle, Thoroughbred horses are different from Percheron horses. Even today we do not confuse them.
Companion animals—cats and dogs—are no different than lifestock in the variety of breeds.
These days the concept of animal control, primarily an urban phenomenon, seems to deny the value—even necessity—of companion animals while it seeks to limit how many we can have and which breeds they can be.
It's undoubtedly true that some companion animals are mistreated: some are denied medical attention, some are abandoned, some are taught to be vicious. This is not new. Neither is it unique to companion animals: men mistreat their fellow men in similar ways.
It is a mistake to prevent the purebreeding of companion animals—as much a mistake as to prevent it in livestock. It is a mistake to brand a particular breed as dangerous because some individuals have been taught to be vicious. (I'm thinking of Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.) It is a mistake to make it illegal for a person to have a particular breed of companion animal.
No law can redress or prevent the inevitable ways in which companion animals are mistreated. What is appropriate—what can help—is education and free programs to care for ill, abandoned, or otherwise mistreated animals—without killing them after some time period.
What disturbs me most about this sort of animal control legislation is that it purports to help pets, but there is no similar effort to help people. There is no humane, permanent help for the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the abused. To the contrary, some cities try to block or limit such care!
Why aren't we focusing on taking care of our own kind?
Written: 2-26-2007. Published 9-14-2008.