Animals as pets
Keeping pets gives many people companionship and great happiness. And it provides many animals with a loving home and an apparently happy life.
Many breeds of certain animal species - dogs and cats, for example - have a long history of being human companions, and keeping these as pets is morally good, since this is the natural way for these animals to live. Indeed, forcing such animals to live in a wild environment that they are unfitted for would be morally wrong.
Adopting an animal that has no home and might otherwise be destroyed is clearly a morally good thing to do.
But there are ethical problems involved in keeping animals as pets - these become obvious if the animal is not well looked after or if it is an inappropriate animal to keep as a pet.
It's also unethical to keep an animal that is a danger to other people or animals.
Ethical problems of pet-keepingInappropriate habitat
It is only ethical to keep an animal as a pet if both the animal's biological and psychological needs are properly catered for.
Here are some examples of moral wrongs associated with pet-keeping:
- birds in small cages
- fish in bowls or small tanks
- large dogs in small flats
- animals that are chained up for long periods
- too little, too much or wrong food
- insufficient exercise
- insufficient space
- lack of veterinary care
- lack of training - good training will give a dog a happier and more fulfilling life
- insufficient companionship - some animals need members of their own breed around them
- failure to spend enough time with the animal
- unnatural veterinary practices like tail-docking, except where these benefit the animal (tail docking is illegal in the UK under the 2007 Animal Welfare Act, except for working dogs)
- Cruelty, neglect and abandonment
- respect for wild animals means leaving them in the wild
- private owners can rarely provide the proper conditions for keeping some exotic animals
- domesticated animals bred for high activity or agricultural work should not be kept idle or in small flats
- domesticated animals bred for fighting should not be kept
- some domestic animals have been bred to over-emphasise particular characteristics to the extent that they suffer pain or discomfort
- some domestic animals are so over-bred that they are at greater risk of genetic defects or disease
In January 2009 the UK Kennel Club introduced new breed standards for the pedigree dogs in Britain to protect them from ill health caused by in-breeding.
This followed concerns about genetic disease raised in a BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, that claimed many pedigree dogs suffer ill-health caused by years of inbreeding.
- using an animal to earn money or beg may exploit the animal and violate its rights
- buying an animal from a 'puppy farm' encourages others to exploit animals
- using an animal for crime is exploitation
Wild nature is home for hundreds of thousands of species, many of which are exotic and/or close to extinction. Throughout recent decades, humanity has made a solid effort in order to prevent the extinction of these animals, protect the habitat of these species, and somehow minimize the negative consequences of the presence of humans. However, there is another problem that has not been paid enough attention to—this problem is keeping exotic animals as pets. Although owners of exotic animals might believe they are not doing anything bad, in fact such a practice should be prohibited due to a number of reasons.
Almost no one, except perhaps the richest people, can provide a wild animal with all its necessary conditions. Exotic animals have unique needs. For example, wild tigers need a large territory to roam around in. A venomous Monocled cobra, which can be legally bought in a number of states for a puny $100, will repeatedly strike when feeling in danger. A bobcat can hunt a prey eight times bigger than itself. Chimpanzees and other primates require a lot of space for climbing, and sea mammals need vast water basins
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