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Why It’s Cruel to Keep Dogs as “Pets”

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

An unnatural existence

Stolen from your mother as a youngster, confined, controlled, surgically altered, and bored for hours on end. Imagine yourself as a "pet" dog.

You retain many of the instincts of your wild ancestors such as the desire to run free at your own will, eat fresh food as nature intended, and to have the constant company of your own family members as you explore your territory and take in the sounds and smells of the natural world.

Now place yourself in a small Manhattan apartment, enduring the intermittent company of your beloved master with your ability to see the world and even use the bathroom remaining on their terms only. You only occasionally get to meet members of your own species, many of which have been so strangely altered due to selective breeding that the natural order ceases to exist. Your range consists of wherever your owner takes you, on a leash of course. It is a confusing, distressing and unnatural existence.

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Facts about the dog trade

  • There are Approximately 83.3 million owned dogs in the United States.
  • 70% of dog owners own one dog
  • 6-8 million dogs enter shelters each year, and an estimated 3-4 million healthy cats and dogs are euthanized yearly.
  • Across the country, privately-held dogs held have escaped from their fenced in yards and have attacked humans and other animals — with sometimes fatal results.
  • Many dogs can transmit deadly diseases — including MRSA, lyme disease and salmonellosis — to humans.
  • The CDC states that "Nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, half of these are children.1 One in five dog bites results in injuries serious enough to require medical attention."
  • Puppy mills are breeding factory farms that hold dogs in cramped cages and force female dogs to breed every time they are in heat (a 5 year old dog gives birth to 10 litters).

Dogs are often kept in crates


Domestication is cruel

Many owners of dogs think that they love their “pets” and that they are members of their families, but the reality is that these animals are being denied their freedom that people mistakenly think they no longer desire because they have been “domesticated”.

All too often, people think that because a practice has been around for ages, it can't be unethical. It is true that dogs have evolved with mankind for centuries, but the relationship started as a symbiotic one where wolves would accompany humans free-ranging in a wild and natural existence. Eventually, the reciprocal relationship of humans and dogs devolved to exploitation and abuse.

The Suffering of Pure Breds

Many dogs are forcibly “selectively bred” (and their puppies abducted) to have unnatural traits and suffer from health problems, shortened life spans, and impaired mental development. These once wild and magnificent animals have been altered to be entirely dependent on humans, with only a few dog breeds capable of providing for themselves in the wild.

People think that they have successfully altered nature to such an extent that this once wild wolf is now as good as a human child with stunted cognition, perfectly suited for confinement. Most dogs have no choice but to endure an existence with humans for their social, physical, and psychological needs, but these needs are on a large scale, often not met.

Puppy mills flourish

Dog Breeding and the Dog Trade

If a domesticated dog is lucky enough to not to be bred with numerous intentional deformities (and some breeds are even forced to go through surgery to alter their appearance), it is still yanked away from its parents at a young age to be sold to humans as a “pet” through ‘pet’ stores or breeders. Dog ownership has grown to such popularity that many ‘surplus’ dogs languish in shelters, waiting to get adopted by the species that created them, and often unsuccessfully.

Dogs that suffer from ‘behavioral problems’ (these are often dogs that express their natural, repressed instincts) are put to death because they make less than optimal “pets”. Other dogs can even suffer the same fate simply because they are large, black, and unappealing to new families.

To combat the ‘pet overpopulation problem’, it is recommended for most dog owners to ‘spay or neuter’ their animals. These words are a nice way of saying castration, or mutilating the dog’s reproductive organs. Would you want your genitals severed in the name of human population control? Many studies show that such a procedure causes hormone imbalances and increased risk of some ailments.

After dogs go through this procedure, most are fed boring and inadequate dried kibble that is not anywhere near what their natural diet should consist of or taste like. These inferior diets lead to illness, bad breath, and life threatening dental diseases.

Psychological Welfare

What happens if you work regular 9-5 hour jobs like most Americans? Dogs must spend unnatural amounts of time waiting for their owners to return. No matter how much we selectively breed dogs to suit our lifestyles, no dogs prefer loneliness. Sometimes dogs less resilient to this mistreatment acquire mental problems that are referred to as “separation anxiety”, but owners brush it off as acceptable and may confine their dogs to a crate (barely enough room for the dog to turn around in) as a result.

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Stereotypic behavior in shelter dogs

Dogs have been known to suffer from depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and other mental and emotional problems in captivity. Often under-exercised and under-stimulated, some dogs may become unnaturally lethargic, leading to weight gain.

Many dogs are so far removed from their natural behavior that they do not know how to get along with other dogs. These dogs when available for adoption are simply titled 'must be adopted to a one dog household', but often are suffering from profound anxiety disorders and neurosis.