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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Your pet ownership is just a little self-indulgent

Thanksgiving in the Castro household consists of four key components: watching the parade, watching the dog show, going to visit the “white” side of the family and then finishing the day by visiting the Cuban side. The food is usually better on the Cuban side, but I still love both halves equally.

While all of those components have always been enjoyable in and of themselves, this year I find myself looking forward to one particular tradition with a little less fervor than usual: the dog show. For this year, I find myself looking down upon dog ownership, and the culture surrounding it, more often than not.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals believes that about 37-47 percent of American households contain at least one dog.

It’s these same high ownership rates that lead to 3.9 million dogs entering shelters each year, with untold quantities roaming the streets as strays. While information on dogs is unavailable, stray cats are believed to number in the 70 million range.

Chalk it up to human selfishness to create an entire race of stunted, dependent creatures simply for our own amusement. These are animals who, in their most natural state, range across vast swaths of land, hunt with their bare teeth and mark their territory with urine.

In human homes, they get to hang out in a small crate for most of the day, get fed a stale mixture of soy and other by-products and then are forced to pee quickly about three times a day in the same spot on the sidewalk.

Why have we done this? Well, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, the long-term effects of pet ownership are actually pretty superb.

According to the study, “… pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

Apparently, I need to get me a dog right quick, because I am the opposite of all of those things. Or I could work out more, make more of an effort to socialize, try new things more often and just generally work at being a better human being without requiring the use of another living thing to project all of my anxieties onto.

It’s exceptionally American to take the path of least resistance at the cost of other individuals’ health and safety.

We could pay more for our cellphones, but instead we have Chinese workers make them for cheap, under conditions so bad that the workers often try to kill themselves.

We could eat less and take the stairs more, but instead, we invent invasive surgeries to repair our bodies when they fail because of how goddamned obese we all are.

And we could just stop co-opting animals into our lives to alleviate feelings of stress and loneliness, but instead we breed millions of domesticated animals a year, often dispensing of them with as much ease as when they were purchased.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, contrary to popular belief, does not actually want to see all domesticated animals euthanized in some sort of pet holocaust. It does, however, wish to see an end to pet breeding, an increase in spaying and neutering and for qualified owners to make more of an effort to adopt and provide adequate conditions for the animals already in existence.

Should Americans take steps in this direction, the number of strays would decrease dramatically and perhaps we would eventually phase out the practice of pet ownership altogether.

I know I, for one, wouldn’t miss the loud, obnoxious barking whenever trying to walk down the street or ring someone’s doorbell. I wouldn’t miss the excessive social media posts about how great puppies and kittens are and I definitely wouldn’t miss stepping in shit on the sidewalk.

All of this in mind, I probably maybe definitely won’t be tuning in Thursday to see the ultimate in animal domestication on display at the 2015 National Dog Show (presented by Purina!).

You’d be wise to do the same, unless you’re into a species being subjected to gross genetic modifications meant to adhere to another species’ random idea of what beauty is. Happy Thanksgiving?

Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.

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