Pets—Keep a Balanced View of Them
AS NOTED before, man was charged with caring for the earth and all its animals. The Bible says: “Everything [God has] put under his feet: small cattle and oxen, all of them, and also the beasts of the open field, the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea.”—Psalm 8:6-8; 115:16.
How humans carry out their responsibility toward animals is important. God’s Word says: “The righteous one is caring for the soul of his domestic animal.” (Proverbs 12:10) Indeed, God’s laws for Israel repeatedly emphasized the need to be considerate of animals. (Deuteronomy 22:4, 10; 25:4) In the course of carrying out their responsibility, humans have often made pets of domestic animals, and they have even tamed wild ones and made pets of them too.—Genesis 1:24.
It is good to remember, though, that the Bible emphasizes the distinction between humans and animals. Humans, not animals, were made ‘in the image and likeness of God.’ (Genesis 1:26) And whereas animals were created with a limited life span, humans had the prospect of living on earth forever. (Genesis 3:22, 23; Psalm 37:29) Jesus Christ said that to enjoy “everlasting life,” we must exercise faith and take in knowledge of God—things that animals are incapable of doing. (John 3:36; 17:3) Moreover, the Bible compares those unworthy of a resurrection to the “unreasoning animals [that are] born naturally to be caught and destroyed.”—2 Peter 2:9-12.
Provided for Man’s Good
God created animals for the sake of humans. Animals can help them do their work and can serve as their companions or pets. They also serve to magnify God’s love and wisdom. Surely it is a pleasure to observe the beauty of animals and to learn more about the Creator from a study of their marvelous instinctive wisdom. (Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 30:24-28; Romans 1:20) Just one of the many examples of such wisdom is seen in the world of insects. Remarkable indeed is the way bees communicate with one another and follow directions to food sources—not to mention how they build their complex honeycombs.
Animals may benefit man by serving as food. Originally, God provided only vegetation as food for man. But more than 1,600 years later—after the Flood of Noah’s day—God said: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you.” (Genesis 1:29; 9:3) Thus, God made the concession for humans to eat animals. Evidently, this concession was for man’s good, although originally God did not include meat as part of the human diet.
Problems With Pets Today
It seems that throughout history, pets were rarely kept in the home, and this continues to be the case in most parts of the world. In recent times, though, as people have moved to cities and become affluent, house pets have become common. This has created some problems in developed countries.
Of the world’s estimated 500 million pets, a staggering 40 percent or so are found in the United States. There are some 59 million pet dogs and 75 million pet cats there. Yet, London and Paris each have more pets per household than does New York City!
In Paris a few years ago, some 70 motor scooters called caninettes were leased to vacuum dog waste from sidewalks. It was estimated that the some 250,000 dogs in Paris were producing 25 tons of waste daily, less than half of which was picked up by the caninettes. Hundreds of people a year were reportedly being injured and hospitalized after slipping on dog waste.
Then there is the problem of noise. Some dog owners tolerate behavior in their pets that they would never tolerate in people. According to The Pet Care Forum, “the owners of problem barkers seem to develop an ability to ignore the noise.” Some, for instance, do nothing to discourage their dogs from barking, even when the noise is drowning out important conversation.
On the other hand, a dog may be placid and contented while with its owner but may be a neighborhood nightmare when the owner is not there. True, pet owners may love their animals despite such faults, but a shift-working neighbor or the mother next door trying to get her baby to sleep may not be so forgiving. Moreover, bored animals may develop destructive behaviors, becoming distressed and even aggressive.
The rate at which pets reproduce is a problem especially evident in cities. It has been estimated that 17 million dogs and 30 million cats are born in the United States annually. Millions of these end up in animal shelters, where each year in that country alone an estimated four million to six million are euthanatized—put to death.
Why are so many animals sent to shelters? Often it is because love for a pet can be short-lived. The lovable puppy or cute little kitten grows into a larger animal that needs care. But no one in the household may have the time or patience to play with or train the pet. Author and animal expert Dr. Jonica Newby says: “Contrary to popular belief, studies from around the world show consistently that half the dogs given to animal welfare shelters are not abandoned, but are taken there by their owners who cannot cope with the barking, destructiveness, or sheer energy of their pets.”
A fact sheet about pet overpopulation sums up the situation this way: “Living creatures have become throwaway items to be cuddled when cute and abandoned when they become inconvenient. Such disregard for animal life pervades and erodes our culture.”
Important Factors to Consider
Ownership of a pet, particularly in the city, requires serious consideration. Active pets need a daily physical workout for their well-being. The “National People and Pets Survey” in Australia stated: “Walking and exercise is both a physical requirement and mental stimulation for the dog. Dogs that get insufficient exercise can become difficult to manage.” Yet, many owners are too tired after a hard day’s work to take their dog for a walk to release all that pent-up energy.
So prospective pet owners do well to ask themselves these questions: ‘Will I be able to give my animal companion proper attention? Will my life-style result in my pet being left unattended for most of the day? Will I have the time to take my pet for walks or play with it? If my dog needs training, am I prepared to provide that training or take it to an obedience school? Will owning a pet take time away from more important activities?’
Another factor to consider is that owning a pet can be costly. A survey of pet owners found that the average annual veterinary cost of keeping a dog in the United States was $196, and of keeping a cat, $104. That, of course, did not include necessary food and other everyday needs. Additionally, in some communities there are registration fees.
Balanced View a Challenge
Our Creator must be pleased when we take delight in his animal creations and show them loving consideration. Would you agree, then, that it wouldn’t be appropriate to subject animals to cruel treatment? Yet, as a source of entertainment, humans commonly allow animals, such as bulls, dogs, and chickens, to be cruelly abused and killed in fights. Unfortunately, the way people treat animals has not always been with the compassion that God intended.
On the other hand, some people’s concern for pets takes precedence over even more important considerations. In fact, when affection for animals is not controlled by reasonableness, the life of pets can seem even more important than that of humans. As an example, during a fire in one animal hospital, when pet owners gathered outside, some reportedly “tried to break through the cordon, crying that they wanted to die with their darlings.”
Of course, it can be very sad, even tragic, to see a beloved pet die. But even in such a case, there is room for some balance. As noted earlier, animals were not created in God’s image, nor were they meant to live forever, as were humans. Regarding the way God made humans, the Bible says: “He has even put eternity into their minds.” Yet, nothing like this is said of animals.—Ecclesiastes 3:11, Byington.
Thus, the Bible does not say that it is wrong to kill animals—indeed, they are now a common source of food for millions. But what about putting a pet to death—for example, one that is sick and suffering? What a difficult, painful decision that can be! Yet, a pet lover may conclude that doing so in a quick and painless manner is better than providing his loyal animal companion with expensive treatment that merely prolongs its suffering—and may even put a strain on a family’s finances.
God dearly loves his human creation; should we not, in turn, show consideration and affection for the animals that he has entrusted to our care and oversight? Those who possess such love have often been drawn to the wonderful prospects of enjoying animals as our Creator originally intended. The concluding article in this series will develop this aspect of the subject of pets.
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Why are millions of pets in shelters put to death each year?
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
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Particularly for city dwellers, owning a pet may require much more than many realize
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Our Creator is pleased when we treat animals with kindness