Kidnapping an animal and holding it captive, what most people refer to as owning a “pet”, is another of those common practices in society that I used to blindly accept when I was younger and now see a little differently.
Most pet owners I think truly believe that they love their pets and that their pets love them. I’m sure that’s true in some sense, because animals like people tend to adapt to the limitations of whatever environment is placed around them, and once accustomed to it they no longer question whether it’s right or wrong.
But I think there’s a fundamental need being neglected: freedom. Domesticated animals are not free. They are safe and alive, but they are not free, and so their existences are not as full as nature intended.
Right now, for example, I know of a dog that’s kept in a garage all day and that is only allowed out to relieve itself (to urinate and …) twice each day. That means both that the dog has to hold its waste for about 12 hours every day and that it spends most of the day vegetating in a confined space when it could be out adventuring and exploring the natural world. When the dog is let outside, it’s only to roam about a small fenced-in yard, and it soon begins to hang around the gate and bark and whine either because it wants someone to play with or because it wants to be let out to run around the neighborhood (which has actually happened on occasion but only by accident).
I know of another dog that’s kept chained to a back porch all day. While this dog gets plenty of fresh air, it’s also starved for attention, barking with frustration whenever it sees other dogs outside (because it wants to go play with them but can’t because it’s chained to a porch). It’s even worse with groups of people. When the dog hears them, it becomes extremely desperate to get their attention (so that it might be included in their social interaction). The barking and whining takes on a furious tone, but the dog’s pleas usually go unanswered.
Lastly, I’ll mention a third dog I know that’s left out in a yard (similar to the first dog) while its owners are away. After being out for a while, the dog will bark at the back door every so often to try to get someone to let it back in, but no one will answer for a long time. (Most people have to go off to work during the day and can’t be around to give a dog all the attention it craves.)
I don’t think any of these scenarios is extreme enough to be considered “animal cruelty” and get these people into legal trouble. I think it’s all typical enough behavior to indict pet owners in general.
I realize that letting animals run free in the modern world (with cars that could hit them and small children that could be hurt by them) would be a dangerous practice, but I question why then the animals exist in the first place. I don’t see a good reason why they are bred at all, just to exist in a way that is not in their natures.
I think the only people who can strike the right balance are people who live on farms, away from both the cities and the suburbs, where there’s plenty of open space to allow animals to safely run free outside and where the animals (the dogs and cats at least) can choose to visit the humans they might consider friends, without the restrictive concept of “ownership”. It’s the best of both worlds.
Don’t mistake me for an animal lover. Although I used to find it fun to run around and play fetch with my mom’s dog, I also eat meat, and the main reason I don’t wear fur is because it’s probably not machine washable.
But I also believe that beings should exist in their natural states, and I have a strong belief in freedom. Unfortunately, I think pet owners are more concerned with their own need for companionship than for their pets’ need to live free, and living without freedom is a form of death: spiritual death.