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Animal Lovers Shouldn’t Adopt Pets? Are You Freakin’ Serious?

A former veterinarian writing in the Montreal Gazette says living with pets is exploiting and harming them. I say that's crap.

JaneA Kelley  |  Oct 22nd 2014


“The exploitation of pets is much more cruel, in its hypocrisy and sophistication, than any other form of animal exploitation,” Charles Danten wrote in the opening salvo of his recent op-ed screed published in the Montreal Gazette.

And why does he say this? To start with, Danten says that the bond we “impose upon” our pets forces them to remain infantile and never enjoy autonomy and full emotional maturity. This, Danten argues, causes a vast array of psychological problems such as phobias, aggression, and stress-based illnesses. Never mind that commonly accepted archaeological evidence indicates that it was the animals who chose to throw in their lot with us, not us capturing and “breaking” them to our will.

Danten says any curative treatments for these psychological problems and illnesses are “doomed to fail” because the diseases have their root in a relationship concept that is inherently flawed.

Not only that, but Danten, a former veterinarian (who is now apparently enjoying a second career as a shill for PETA), argues that animal health care in itself is a form of abuse because hey, animals can’t understand “whatever good intentions are behind veterinary medical care.”

Did you get that? Animals get sick because we’re crazy. Curative treatments won’t do any good, but that’s okay because veterinary care is abuse.

Wait, what?

Torbie Cat Outdoors

Struggling to survive on the streets is totally so much better than being “tortured” by living indoors with people who give you a great, stimulating environment and lots of love and care, right? Photo CC-BY-SA lysinewf

Oh, but it gets better. Danten says that “convincing, large-scale quantitative studies” show that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better and perhaps even worse than that of non-pet-owners, and that any studies proving otherwise are only showing a “short term effects of the placebo type.”

Wow, Doc, care to name some of those studies? Please. I’m all ears.

I have to say that I agree with a couple of Danten’s assertions. Overbreeding has resulted in truly horrific health consequences. The problem is worse in dogs than it is in cats, primarily because dogs that were originally bred to do a job are now being bred to a show standard (case in point: Bulldogs, who can’t even reproduce or give birth naturally), but cat breeders may give them a run for their money if the cat fancy doesn’t act to stop the madness of kitten mills and breed standards that penalize cats that look like cats rather than mutant dolls.

Overvaccination has also caused untold misery, particularly for cats. A lifestyle-appropriate vaccination and/or titer protocol designed by an owner and veterinarian working together saves lives, but I think the whole “every vaccination, every year, for every cat” thing is ridiculous. A growing number of vets agree with me on this.

Woman cat mug

Oh, the horrors! Somebody call the ASPCA, for this cat is surely being tortured … or not. Photo CC-BY-SA Sibel

But to call spaying and neutering “mutilations” and allege that it makes animals “easier to control” but causes the animals themselves “untold misery”? That’s just crap! Anyone who has spent any time at all in a veterinary career should be ashamed of themselves for saying that.

To accuse the people who run and volunteer at no-kill shelters of “only pleasing themselves” by keeping animals who, Danten assumes, will never be adopted because of “unredeemable physical or psychological flaws,” is shameful and a bald-face lie. Not only is he maligning shelter workers, he’s perpetuating a belief that keeps millions of wonderful shelter pets from finding homes.

Oh, but don’t worry: Danten says you can stop this “barbarism” and “cruelty” by being sure that once your beloved pet dies, you never adopt another one.

Well, Doc, I hope you’ll be following your own advice.

Don't Like Your Attitude

What do you think? Are we exploiting our cats by keeping them in our homes and caring for them? Is the relationship between a person and a pet fundamentally exploitive? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.