Topic: Society

PETA’s Presumptuous Westminster Protest

For an organization with “ethics” in its name, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sure have trouble with the concept.

Its latest argument, carried by group picketers at the Westminster Dog Show, is that breeders of AKC dogs are like Klan members or Nazi “master race” advocates, violating the principle that “all dogs are created equal.” PETA further decreed that the dog breeders are “murderers,” because they create dogs for people who would otherwise rescue abandoned dogs from being euthanized at the pound: a new PETA ad shows a dog in a body bag being plopped on the table in front of a family that just bought a dog from a breeder.

Dog shows are silly, to be sure, but PETA’s argument is willfully ignorant of the role pets play in our lives. Dogs and cats become integral members of a family and its life-style. If you live in an urban apartment, you don’t want an English Sheepdog or a bloodhound; if you live on a farm, the Yorkshire terrier is going to have a hard time. There is nothing wrong with a jogger wanting a dog that runs (an English mastiff would not be a good choice) and someone on the shore preferring a dog that swims (Bassett Hounds, in contrast, sink). The best way to find a dog whose traits and abilities fit your lifestyle and family is to pick the right breed, and to know what the mother and father were like. Rescuing a pound dog is kind and wonderful when it works. As the former owner of a dog rescued from a pound sentence who found himself living with a disturbed animal that attacked every member of my family, including my seven year old son, I feel qualified to tell PETA, “Take risks with your own family; don’t try to hector me into taking risks with mine.”

PETA is arrogant and irresponsible to insist that dog owners have to take their chances on dogs from the pound or be designated as dog-bigots. We choose our pets for our pleasure and to bestow love on an animal in return. This is not unethical, nor are the qualified, responsible breeders less than ethical for breeding dogs with consistent and predictable characteristics. And it tortures logic to argue that those who acquire pure-bred dogs are therefore responsible for the death of pound puppies. This is like arguing that every woman who has a baby is condemning an orphan to life in an institution. And why does PETA’s argument stop with those who purchase dogs? Don’t all the people who don’t want dogs have the same ethical obligation to do what PETA has decreed is right? They’re killing dogs too, aren’t they, by not saving any. And the people who hate dogs — why are they off the hook?

No woman has an ethical obligation to adopt a child, and dog lovers have no ethical obligation to adopt dogs from the pound. The people who put the dogs there — the careless or heartless individuals who abandoned them, purchased them without understanding the commitment involved, didn’t neuter or spay their pets, abused or neglected them — they are responsible for those dogs being euthanized. PETA has no right to tell me I can’t have the daily delight of my Jack Russell Terrier because some idiot didn’t realize that his St. Bernard puppy would get so big. The people who have an ethical obligation to adopt dogs from the pound are the ethically-muddled marchers of PETA who have the gall to try to pressure others into making the choice of pet that they think is appropriate.

Respect my choices, PETA members, and my priorities: it’s my life and my dog. I’m treating my “canine companion,” as PETA-talk calls them, ethically and well; in fact, I’ve taken good care of four. If you can do better, I salute you: by your own arguments, I’d say personal integrity obligates you to adopt all the dogs and cats your house and yard can hold.

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