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Chapter 10 Hot button issue.







free-roaming cats

feral cats

puppy mills

commercial breeders

outdoor cats

While pets or companion animals have a lengthy history living with humans, aspects of this relationship are still evolving. There are a number of circumstances where different groups of people differ in their opinions of how animals should be treated, the type of care they should receive, and what types of animals can or should be kept as companions. These "hot button" issues are debated in the media, in the courts, at the federal level, and in local communities. They may be a point of contention among groups that would normally be allies, or find common ground among groups that differ on other topics or questions. This section will examine a handful of these topics, presenting a summary of the issue, a selection of references, and a list of points from each side of the issue. There are other examples to consider, and new ones are coming up all the time as we continue to redefine our relationship with the animals that share our homes.


Animals are defined as property under law. This made sense at a time when livestock was among a family's most significant economic possessions. A family would buy or sell animals as needed. The animals were needed to provide food, fiber, and labor. The economy of the household and the community depended on this clearly defined relationship. If an animal was lost, killed, or stolen, the family or owner could seek compensation if another person was at fault. Things have changed. Animals are now kept in houses not for their economic value but for companionship. How should this relationship be recognized in our language and the law? Organizations such as In Defense of Animals are leading an effort to change the title of "owner" to "guardian." It is intended to change the way in which we view our relationship with animals, and our duties for their care. As a guardian, an individual living with an animal will have the responsibility to protect and nurture the animal, in terms of the animal's interests, not the person's.
Pro-Guardian                        Pro-Owner

* People will be required to        * If there are multiple guardians
  think about the best                in a home and they have different
  interests of an animal              opinions, how will a decision be
  in their care.                      reached regarding the treatment
                                      or care of a companion animal?
* It is a proactive and
  positive term for raising         * People are currently responsible
  awareness about animals             for damage or problems caused by
  and their treatment.                animals that they "own"; how will
                                      this be influenced if the people
* The change in language              are now guardians?
  will help to shape attitudes
  about animals.                    * This will change the legal
                                      status of animals, and may
* The emotional value of              require a  substantial change
  companion animals will be           in the infrastructure society
  recognized. People who have a       has in place to deal with
  pet harmed or killed by             animals and associated issues.
  accident or intentionally
  can be compensated for the        * Introducing the guardian
  loss of their companion above       terminology is a stealth
  and beyond the economic value       tactic to change the legal
  of the animal.                      status of animals without
                                      directly addressing the issue.


Chapman, T. (2005, March/April). Owner or guardian? Trends, 31-34.

Katz, J. (2004). Guarding the guard dog? Are you a dog "owner"--or
a dog "guardian?" Retrieved March 10, 1997, from

The Guardian Campaign. Retrieved August 15, 2007, from


In addition to many species that have been domesticated and kept as pets for hundreds of years, there are other species that some people enjoy and desire to keep as pets. These include monkeys, large wild cats such as tigers and lions, wolves and wolf--dog hybrids, various large reptiles, and various other species.
Pro-Exotic Animals                  Anti-Exotic Animals

* Americans should be free to own   * Exotic animals pose a significant
  any animal that they desire as      risk to the owners and the public,
  long as it does not pose a          not just through injuries and
  public danger or nuisance.          deaths by attacks, but also
                                      through exposure to zoonotic
* The danger of exotic animals is     diseases.
  exaggerated. Experienced exotic
  pet owners are able to provide    * Many exotic pets are captured
  care for their pets and protect     from the wild, depleting natural
  members of the public.              populations of the species.

* Exotic pet owners can help        * Animals bred as pets are not
  to breed endangered animals in      helpful in organized conservation
  captivity to protect them           efforts since there is not enough
  from extinction.                    information available on their
                                      genetic heritage and breeding

                                    * The specialized needs of exotic
                                      animals can seldom be met outside
                                      of zoos or other institutions with
                                      the experience and resources
                                      needed to provide appropriate
                                      care. As a result, most of the
                                      exotic animals kept as pets suffer
                                      poor health and welfare.


Farintino, R. The whims and dangers of the exotic pets market.
Retrieved August 15, 2007, from

United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service. (2000). Animal Care Position Statement: Large
wild and exotic cats make dangerous pets. Retrieved August 15, 2007,

General information on wolf-dog ownership. Retrieved August 15, 2007,


The fear of dog attacks has resulted in some communities passing, or attempting to pass, laws that would prohibit or restrict the ownership of particular breeds thought to be more dangerous than other breeds. Previous generations feared German shepherd dogs and Doberman pinschers. The breed most frequently targeted by current legislation is pit bulls (or the variety of names that dogs in this grouping are known by).
Pro-BSL                            Anti-BSL

* Pit bulls and similar            * The response to pit bull
  breeds account for a               attacks is driven by media
  disproportionate number            frenzy that gives a biased
  of serious attacks on people       sense of the risk.
  and other dogs.

* Pit bulls were bred to be        * Effective dangerous dog
  aggressive as fighting dogs,       regulation should be breed-
  so it should be no surprise        neutral and focus on the
  that they would be more            behavior of individual
  aggressive, and as a result        dogs and their owners.
  they are not appropriate
  companion animals.               * Families may be required
                                     to relinquish gentle and
* Many other Western countries       beloved pit bulls kept as
  have already recognized the        companions, which have
  danger that pit bulls              done no harm when communities
  represent, and prohibit            pass restrictions.
  their ownership.
                                   * Breed-specific legislation
                                     has been ineffective as a
                                     method to reduce the number
                                     of dog attacks in a community.


Bradley, J. (2005). Dogs bite: But balloons and slippers are more
dangerous. Berkeley, CA: James and Kenneth Publishers.

Rollin, B. E. (2007, January). Profiling: Two sides of the issue.
Veterinary Forum, 64--67.


Cats scratch for a variety of reasons including conditioning their claws, marking by leaving a physical sign (scratch marks) and scent from their paws on objects, and to stretch and exercise. Scratching and damaging furniture is a commonly reported behavior problem among cat owners. Some owners who are elderly or have other health problems can face additional risks if they are accidentally scratched by their cat. The actual procedure involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe to prevent regrowth of the nail, which is attached to the bone.
Pro-Declaw                        Anti-Declaw

* The procedure employed has      * Declawing is a procedure that has
  evolved over the years and        no medical benefits for the cat, and
  is performed under anesthesia     is done entirely for the convenience
  with post-operative               of the owner.
  analgesics, resulting in
  limited pain or discomfort      * It is a form of mutilation
  to the cat.                       that should not be tolerated
                                    as a regular practice"
* If it is a choice between         and should only be used when
  someone relinquishing his         absolutely necessary to keep
  or her cat due to damage          a cat in a home.
  that it causes and
  declawing, it is more           * It deprives the cat of an
  humane to declaw the cat          important form of defense.
  so that it can remain in
  its home.                       * Regular trimming of nails and
                                    providing appropriate scratching
* The declawing procedure           posts will generally prevent
  is an important source            destructive scratching.
  of income for veterinary


Grier, K. C., & Peterson, N. (2005). Indoor cats, scratching, and the
debate over declawing: When normal pet behavior becomes a problem. In
D. J. Salem & A. N. Rowan (Eds.), The state of the animals III (pp.
27-41). Washington, DC: Humane Society Press.

Landsberg, G. (1991). Cat owners' attitudes toward declawing.
Anthrozoos, 4(3), 192-197.

Patronek, G., & Dodman, D. (1999). Attitudes, procedures, and delivery
of behavior services by veterinarians in small animal practice.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 215, 1606-1611.


Docking is when a dog's tail is cut short, and cropping is when a dog's ears are cut and shaped to stand erect. There are a variety of dog breeds for which these are standard practices. These procedures are usually carried out by a veterinarian under anesthesia, though it is not uncommon for amateurs to also perform the procedures. In many parts of Europe, these procedures are not permitted, even by a veterinarian, unless it is for the health and benefit of the individual animal.
Pro-Docking/Cropping                  Anti-Docking/Cropping

* This is an important tradition      * Breeds have not lost
  associated with certain breeds,       popularity in parts of
  and the essential character           the world where the
  and popularity of the breed           practice is banned.
  would be harmed if the
  practice was banned.                * The claims of benefits
                                        for some  working breeds
* Some hunting breeds benefit from      are disingenuous since
  docking since the tail is prone       other breeds doing the same
  to injury when the dog is             work are not docked.
  working in the field.
                                      * Since the procedure is
* The procedure is not harmful          generally not for the benefit
  to the dog when performed by          of the individual dog, any
  an experienced veterinarian.          risk of possible
                                        complications during surgery
                                        is unwarranted.


Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. Retrieved March 29,
2007, from

National Animal Interest Alliance. Retrieved March 29, 2007,


Cats at one time were working animals, kept to manage mouse and rat populations around farms and homes. They often spent their entire lives living outside, finding what shelter they could in barns and under porches. That is no longer the case for most cats kept as companions.
Pro-Outdoor                       Anti-Outdoor

* It is natural for cats to go    * Free-roaming cats, home-owned,
  outdoors to get exercise and      and feral cats kill large numbers
  enjoy themselves.                 of small animals and birds. In
                                    addition to the harm to these
* Cats allowed access to the        animals, the cats also compete
  outdoors have fewer behavior      with native predators for
  problems.                         prey/food.

* Trap-neuter-release (TNR)       * Free-roaming cats are exposed to a
  programs can effectively deal     wide variety of dangers, including
  with populations of               car accidents, poisons, the
  free-roaming cats without         elements, fights with other cats
  depending on euthanasia           and animals, and mistreatment by
  as the primary control            people.
                                  * Cats kept indoors are healthier
* Their impact on wildlife          and do not risk injury.
  is over-estimated since
  they usually kill               * It is more humane to catch and
  small animals that are            euthanize free-roaming cats than to
  in great abundance.               let them suffer from hunger and


Fitzgerald, B. M., & Turner, D.C. (2000). Hunting behaviour of
domestic cats and their impact on prey populations. In D. C. Turner
& P. Bateson (Eds.), The domestic cat: The biology of its behaviour
(pp. 151--175). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Patronek, G. (1998). Free-roaming and feral cats--their impact on
wildlife and human beings. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical
Association, 212, 218-226.

Slater, M., & Shain, S. (2005). Feral cats: An overview. In D. J.
Salem & A. N. Rowan (Eds.), The state of the animals III (pp. 43--53).
Washington, DC: Humane Society Press.


When dogs and cats get old, sick, or are no longer wanted, they may be euthanized by a veterinarian or taken to an animal shelter. The same has not been true for horses. For many owners, a horse remains a valuable investment and they do not wish to simply relinquish or discard the horse without some form of compensation. In addition, the size of horses makes disposal of the remains a more difficult or expensive process. Many of these horses may be sold at auctions, or to brokers who buy horses. Some of these horses are kept, resold, and used for riding or other purposes. However, each year as many as 90,000 horses are slaughtered for human consumption. While horsemeat is not usually eaten in the United States, there is a thriving overseas market and most of the meat is shipped to Europe and Japan. For the past several years there have been extensive efforts to prohibit the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption in the United States.
Pro-Slaughter                       Anti-Slaughter

* Owners deserve the opportunity    * Horses have a unique role
  to recover their investment         in our nation's history and
  in their horses by selling          deserve a more dignified
  them at auctions, even if the       fate than being slaughtered
  horses may go to slaughter.         for food.

* Humans have eaten horses for      * Horses transported for slaughter
  as long as we have historical       are often moved in trucks that
  records. It is a part of our        do not separate them by age,
  history, and even if                size, or sex, resulting in
  we would not eat horsemeat we       injury and suffering during
  should recognize that others        the trip.
  may still do so.
                                    * Slaughter plants have not been
* Ending the slaughter of             designed to meet the specific
  horses for human consumption        behavioral and anatomical
  would set a precedent for           requirements of horses, again
  raising and slaughtering            resulting in unnecessary injury
  other animals for food.             and pain.

* There is no adequate              * The availability of the
  infrastructure available to         slaughter option allows the
  absorb the numbers of               horse industry to continue
  horses that would have normally     overbreeding of unneeded or
  gone to slaughter.                  unwanted additional horses.

* Slaughter is a more humane
  option than allowing an
  unwanted horse to suffer from
  mistreatment or abandonment.


American Association of Equine Practitioners. Retrieved March 29,
2007, from

Veterinarians for Equine Welfare. Retrieved March 29, 2007, from


About 7% of pet dogs are acquired from pet stores (approximately four to five hundred thousand puppies each year). These stores are typically supplied by commercial breeding establishments licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Investigations have documented poor conditions at many of these facilities, typically called puppy mills. Attention here is directed toward two primary concerns. The first concern is the conditions for the breeding stock, and the second is the health and transport of the puppies that are produced and sold. Breeding dogs may spend their entire lives in cages with limited or no opportunity for exercise. Puppies are often shipped at the age when it is most important for them to socialize with people. There is also concern regarding the overall health and genetic fitness of puppies produced by commercial breeders, when compared with those bred by breed fanciers/ enthusiasts.
Pro-Sales                      Anti-Sales

* There is a huge demand       * The dogs at puppy mills are in
for puppies and breeds that    terrible conditions, and the USDA has
are not readily available      failed to provide the resources or
from animal shelters or        effort needed to inspect the facilities
breed fanciers. The public     and enforce the regulations.
deserves the opportunity
to get the kind of             * Pet store puppies are frequently sick
dog they want.                 and subject to inherited diseases.

* Pet stores that sell dogs    * Commercial breeders pay little or
can also provide purchasers    no attention to the breed standards;
with appropriate information   as a result the purchaser may not get
on care and diet.              what they are looking for when they
                               buy a puppy of a particular breed
* If pet stores did not        from a pet store.
sell dogs, then breeding
and selling dogs would         * Pet store purchases help contribute
become a "backyard" business   to pet overpopulation and the
with no oversight or           number of homeless dogs.
                               * Large and successful pet store
The inability to sell dogs     chains have decided not to sell
would be a significant blow    puppies, and instead have assisted
to the pet industry, which     shelters and rescue groups to find
is a growing part of the       homes for dogs in need.


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Retrieved March 29, 2007, from

Bedwell-Wilson, W. (2007) Pets: To sell or not to sell. Pet Product
News. Retrieved March 29, 2007, from

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Retrieved March 29, 2007,

National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA). Retrieved March 29, 2007,


1. What is the motivation behind changing the title of pet "owner" to "guardian"?

2. In terms of species conservation, provide an argument for and against keeping exotic animals as pets.

3. What is breed-specific legislation? Name some commonly affected breeds.

4. What are some reasons that cats may engage in scratching?

5. What does the declawing procedure involve?

6. What is the historical purpose behind docking and cropping?

7. What are the arguments for and against outdoor cats in terms of their impact on wildlife?

8. What outcomes exist for horses that are no longer wanted by their owners?

9. What are the primary concerns with commercial breeding facilities?
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Article Details
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Author:Zawistowski, Stephen
Publication:Companion Animals in Society
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 9 Companion animals in the home.
Next Article:Chapter 11 Companion animal care guide.

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