Is Pet “Ownership” a Basic Human Right or a Privilege?

If you haven’t read part 1 of, is Pet “Ownership” a Right or Privilege, now would be a good time to do so.

For all of us that makeup Fun Paw Care this is a rhetorical question because it is so obvious that being a pet parent is a privilege, but for others, this is not so obvious. Being a pet parent or guardian is a privilege, not a right. While I agree about the symbiosis between pets and humans and the fact that most people benefit greatly from animals (not just companion animals) and nature as stated by the International Association of Humane-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), it is another situation entirely to take care of an animal in a responsible, reliable, compassionate, humane and intelligent way.

The (IAHAIO) is an umbrella of national associations and related organizations interested in advancing the understanding and appreciation of human-nonhuman animal (hereafter animal) interaction. They recently devised a set of proclamations including “it is a universal, natural and basic human right to benefit from the presence of animals.” The affirmation of this general principle has left a lot of a grey area as to where the line is drawn from right verses a privilege. While I agree entirely that humans benefit greatly from interacting with animals and nature, I do not go as far to state that it is a right of all humans to benefit from the presence of animals. The IAHAIO’s statement leads to the logical conclusion that interaction between animals is a right.

Plodding through the landscape of rhetorical jargon and intellectual debates of what the differences are between a right and a privilege, can give you agita. Ponder these thoughts that I think we can all agree upon: a right is something all humans are born with, such as the right to breathe, live, think, drink, eat and so on. The word “right”, connotes legality and contractual law which IMHO does not fit well with living sentient beings. Rights are more in the jurisdiction of legalese jargon, whereas privilege occupies the domain of something earned and achieved. The Canine Good Citizen test (CGC,) which I am an evaluator for, encapsulates this ideology and tests the parent’s level of competence, responsibility and care as much as the pet’s ability. This is a privilege, not a right.  Not everyone will pass or earn the CGC title. It takes responsibility, dedication, discipline, work, education and drive of both the pet parent and the dog.

In addition, a privilege is something that is earned or been awarded. We may lose our privileges much easier than we can lose our rights. Privileges can be taken away for a variety of things, such as failure to honor an agreement (like the CGC) or driving drunk, failure to follow directions, taking unfair advantage of opportunities and failure to renew fees and dues. There are far fewer circumstances that cause the loss of rights than the loss of privileges. If being a pet parent is truly a privilege, what are the universal metrics for earning that privilege going to be and who will enforce them?

To elaborate further with other analogies, there is no “right” to drive, or “right” to carry a concealed weapon/hand gun without the caveat that you must become sufficiently knowledgeable and tested on your skills, proper care, and usage before earning that responsibility. There is not even a “right” to get married or to procreate in some countries. In China, you are limited to the number of children you may have, and in some states, in the United States and many other countries, same sex couples may not legally get married. Handguns and drivers licenses are both examples of the need to establish a minimum knowledge of an inanimate object before earning the privilege of using them. If used incorrectly, they both could kill you and others.

Obviously, a dog or cat is far from an inanimate object or owned, but no difference in respect of the danger that a dog poses to the general public if they or their parent is uneducated. A guardian must take on a great responsibility by being a pet parent and that responsibility and privilege should be regulated. By that standard, being a pet parent deserves a greater reason to have licensing for people to earn that privilege. Taking care of your pet, sustaining mental, emotional, and physical health and the safety of all who come into contact with your pet are all vital aspects to prove you are sufficiently knowledgeable before you can be a guardian for another’s life. I would like to jettison the idea that a pet is a right. The axiom that your pet is not an inanimate object, but another living, breathing, sentient being and life form must be honored, respected and appreciated. We can honor that life form by bestowing the basic privilege status upon being granted this great responsibility. Any abdication of that responsibility, unintelligent misuse, mismanagement or abuse, could endanger lives. I contend that there are deleterious outcomes because pet parenthood is a fundamental human right and not a privilege. Perhaps putting the cart before the horse, a more accurate and astute debate would be to first tackle the phrase and legal meaning of pet ownership before moving on to rights and privileges. We believe the answer couldn’t be any more lucid.


Back to (Part 1)

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