Thursday, September 09, 2010

Pet Ownership vs Pet Guardianship

I came across this campaign through an email I get from a site called It keeps me informed about what is happening in the world and about issues that are to be on the front burner and not back burner. The most recent newsletter featured an article about something called
"Pet Guardianship".

The purpose of this campaign is to change the language as well as the relationship between people and animals, especially pets. At present the language for us who have pets is ownership. I own my pet. Well, I have cats so that's debatable. However the idea is that if we understand that the language is causing the problem of animal abuse, since if I own something I can dispose of it, or treat it in the manner I deem fit. This is the problem, to the people behind the campaign. It does make sense in a way, if I am the owner of something, then that I own is an object and should I decide to great rid of it, or treat it badly then so much for it. It's my thing and I will treat it as I should and can.

To that end, the group behind the campaign, and the lead group is In Defense of Animals. They want all people who love their pets to sign a petition and get involved with having the name adopted. They are pressing for municipalities and states to get with it and call the pet owners of their communities, pet guardians.

The pledge is as follows:
I pledge to:

• Call myself and others "guardian" rather than “owner”
• Make a lifetime commitment to my animal companions
• Adopt animals only – never buy or sell
• Spay or neuter my animal companions for their health and to prevent overpopulation
• Provide nutritious food, fresh water and daily exercise for my animal companions
• Care for the emotional needs of my animal companions
• Refer to my animal companions as “he” or “she,” not “it”

If you go to the homepage, there is even a video explaining the philosophy of the name change and the hope of the group:

The idea as well, that the word 'owner' is outdated, while 'guardian' denotes, in their words an higher level of relationship and care for those that our responsibility. It is supposed that if the language is changed, then people will see their role as different. The opening paragraph of the campaign states this:
IDA’s Guardian Campaign promotes the use of “guardian” instead of “owner” when referring to our animal companions. This shift promotes a more compassionate relationship between people and other species. The term “guardian” does not change legal standing, but it does more accurately describe the responsibility we have for the wellbeing, treatment, care, and quality of life of our animal friends.

They say the change in terminology does not change any legal status. I hope this is true because as much as I do enjoy my pets, they are still animals. They do not have the same legal rights as I do. I do believe we as a society should care for the animals in our possession, and that all acts of animal cruelty needs to be condemn and those responsible need to be brought to justice.

This movement has a lot of supporters as well. They have a page listing all the groups that agree with them and it is extensive. As for cities that support, even the town of my birth, Windsor Ontario is on the list.

Before I go on about the groups, especially one in particular, I came across an equally interesting article. It's from the American Veterinary Medical Association, it seems they oppose the change of terminology. You may think; what? What's the problem? Now that is the problem. Here is what they say:
Ownership vs. Guardianship
The American Veterinary Medical Association promotes the optimal health and well-being of animals. Further, the AVMA recognizes the role of responsible owners in providing for their animals' care. Any change in terminology describing the relationship between animals and owners does not strengthen this relationship and may, in fact, diminish it. Such changes in terminology may decrease the ability of veterinarians to provide services and, ultimately, result in animal suffering.

Now this is interesting, is there a danger that changing terminology may lead to a change of legal status. Right now, my cats have no legal rights. Of course, as cats they would think 'human rights' is a step down for them. If there is a change in legal status then there could be problems. Let me give a scenario: we as a family have been known to leave our cats for a night or two. I always make sure there is extra dishes of food and water and the litter box is nice and clean with extra litter. I leave lights on for them. However, I still leave them, might I be charged with abandonment?

Let me go back to the groups, one caught my eye, PETA. This is interesting because PETA hates the idea of pet ownership. If you go to their information page, they discuss it. If you read carefully, there's not a lot positive about pet ownership. They discuss the 'best' homes and make it sound terrible, forcing the dogs to hurry, or stale water. Read it. They say:
Contrary to myth, PETA does not want to confiscate animals who are well cared for and "set them free."
But as you read you have to wonder. Remember this is the same group that wanted to change the name of fishes to "Sea Kittens".

Also, PETA has a great track record for animals in its care. Their one shelter in Virginia has an euthanasia record of 84%, with 97% of all animals in their care, in 2009 ending up, dead. That's quite impressive. How does that compare with Humane Society and SPCA? Those places regularly adopt most of their animals out to people.

Yes it's a great idea, but anything that is supported by PETA makes it immediately suspect. What are they really hoping to accomplish is my question.

You really want to support pets, support groups such as the Humane Society,SPCA, or Jazzpurr.

1 comment:

J. K. said...

Wow. When I saw that Windsor Ontario is on the "approval list" I was very surprised.
What are people thinking these days?