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Be a Guardian to, Not Owner of, Your Pet

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Be a Guardian to, Not Owner of, Your Pet

Jenny Moxham
11 Jun 2012
The Star Malaysia

I AGREE with “Pets are not for flaunting” ( The Star, June 9), but do we even have the right to “own” pets?

Pet “ownership” – or “owning” an animal for our personal pleasure or companionship – is regarded by society in general as a right, yet should it really be a right?

Why should one living being have the right to subject another living being to a totally unnatural – and often miserable – way of living?

Now, I admit that many dogs and cats are extremely well treated. They have constant companionship, warm and cosy beds, and there is a mutual affection between both parties.

Many others, however, lead miserable lives, locked away alone all day in high-fenced back yards. They have absolutely nothing to do and nothing to stimulate their minds. Some are chained up for most of the day.

But other pets have an even worse existence. Unlike dogs and cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, fish, rats and mice are almost always kept in small barren cages or tanks.

Frequently, rabbits and guinea pigs are bought as a child’s pet, but children quickly move on to more exciting playthings and the forgotten animals are left to languish without even human company – let alone company of their own kind.

My work takes me into many backyards and I remember one time coming across what appeared to be an abandoned rabbit hutch.

It was almost completely overgrown with long grass and bushes.

To my amazement, and dismay, I discovered that there was a lone rabbit inside this dilapidated box. Obviously all affection and interest in this pet was long gone.

Likewise, I frequently see forgotten, lone birds tucked away in small, barren cages hopping aimlessly from one small perch to another.

Do we really have a right to subject life loving animals to these sad lives?

Some rabbit “houses” being sold in our stores are so small they only allow the rabbit a few hops, and birds can’t even attempt to fly inside most of the small bird cages being sold.

Clearly, it’s going to take a long time to right all the wrongs connected with keeping animals as pets, but first and foremost we need to stop viewing them as property – and stop referring to ourselves as “owners”.

If the term “owner” was replaced with “guardian” it would undoubtedly make people more aware of the responsibility they have for the well-being, treatment, care, and quality of life of the animals in their care.

The animals with whom we share this planet are not our possessions. They are fellow sentient beings with needs and feelings and the capacity to suffer. Consequently, they deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration at all times.

If we follow the Golden Rule – always treat others the way we would like to be treated if we were them – we can’t go wrong.

JENNY MOXHAM, Monbulk, Australia.