People see themselves as caretakers.
Are you a pet owner or the caretaker for your companion animals? A cultural sociologist from Indiana University, South Bend, says the Humane Society has played a significant role in helping Americans see themselves as the latter. Other animal groups contribute to this, too, but the Humane Society is the largest advocacy organization in the country, notes David Blouin, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Its influence can be seen nationwide in the policies of animal shelters and in local ordinances.
"The basic logic behind just about everything the Humane Society does is that these animals, dogs and cats, are important, sentient creatures with interests of their own. Humans' treatment and dealings with animals should take into consideration the interests and concerns of the dogs and cats first."
Blouin's study is part of a larger research project examining Americans' attitudes toward their dogs and the influences behind these attitudes. Traditionally, the largest group of dog owners in the U.S. could be described as dominionists, people who see animals as lesser creatures, often keep them outside, and expect them to be useful, such as with hunting or with home and personal security.
Another group could be characterized as humanists, people who cherish their pets and treat them almost like a child or close friend. This group, Blouin indicates, likely has overtaken the dominionists in size.
He describes a third and growing group as protectionists, people who cherish animals, similar to the way humanists do, but also have a more universal concern about animals in general.
Blouin believes the Humane Society is a major source for the protectionist view. It emphasizes a lifetime relationship between animal companions and their caretakers, encourages sterilization to combat overpopulation, opposes pet stores because of their fundamental purpose of raising animals to make money, and promotes a strict screening process for adoptions.
"Their logic is clear: dogs and cats are friends, not tools, and they belong inside with the rest of the family."