‘Pet Owners’ or ‘Guardians’?

The Poodle and Dog Blog has a post about whether we should call our animals pets or not.

I thought, instead of commenting there, I should post here, since the subject is closely related to this blog, and is actually a subject I have an opinion on (often I just don’t care about things, but this one I do!) 🙂

Anyway, if you notice, I hardly use the word ‘pet’ when I am talking about my dogs and cats. I will usually say companion animal. And although, yes, I did pay money and bought two of my dogs, and I paid money to adopt my other two dogs and both my cats, I don’t feel as though I ‘own’ them. I am their guardian. I don’t believe they are property. I believe they have rights above and beyond the rights of this couch I am sitting on.

They are living, breathing beings, independent and unique. But then, I have a radical opinion of animals. I’m vegetarian, and so I don’t eat animals. And I hold the same attitude toward animals as Chief Seattle held toward the land:

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

I feel the same way about another life. I don’t believe we can truly own another being. Not only a human, but any other living being.

And so I prefer to be a dog and cat guardian, rather than owner. I don’t want, as a human, to be ‘better’ than any other living creature. I want to be on the same level. I am different, for sure, but not better.

I do realize that many people who consider themselves ‘pet owners’ are just as loving, kind, generous, and bonded to their dogs and cats. So in the end, what we call ourselves isn’t as important. Except when it might come to rights and laws.

I don’t know if I’d be considered an animal rights advocate, or animal welfare. If animal rights means we have no animal companions at all, then I guess I wouldn’t be considered that. But I do prefer that living beings have more rights than now they seem to have.

19 thoughts on “‘Pet Owners’ or ‘Guardians’?”

  1. You stated the case very well. And you’re right, it isn’t so much what we call ourselves as long we treat our animals with love, understanding and respect.

    Quite often I think my dogs own me.

  2. You stated the case very well. And you're right, it isn't so much what we call ourselves as long we treat our animals with love, understanding and respect. Quite often I think my dogs own me.

  3. Very well stated and you’re absolutely right, words don’t mean much without the actions behind them. At a Pet Expo this week I met the only animal rights lawyer here in Hawaii. Her entire practice is animal related. She told me the largest part of her practice is animal trusts. Clearly there are more and more people thinking like you, they are not possessions but friends to be taken care of. Hubby and I even refer to our animals as ‘the kids.’ Now that I think about it I don’t refer to them as pets. They are the kids or my dogs and birds. Hmmm, interesting.

  4. Very well stated and you're absolutely right, words don't mean much without the actions behind them. At a Pet Expo this week I met the only animal rights lawyer here in Hawaii. Her entire practice is animal related. She told me the largest part of her practice is animal trusts. Clearly there are more and more people thinking like you, they are not possessions but friends to be taken care of. Hubby and I even refer to our animals as 'the kids.' Now that I think about it I don't refer to them as pets. They are the kids or my dogs and birds. Hmmm, interesting.

  5. Unfortunately, the words do matter, legally speaking. As “owners” we have the right to control every aspect of what happens to our animals. “Guardians” do not. I think that we may need a special classification for animals so they aren’t considered property, but we still can make decisions for them. Animals certainly need to be protected from “bad” owners, but I don’t want anyone else making decisions for my “kids.” Words are powerful, and until my “guardianship” has the same rights as my “ownership” I’ll be my dogs’ owner. And still follow behind them to clean up their poop.

  6. Unfortunately, the words do matter, legally speaking. As "owners" we have the right to control every aspect of what happens to our animals. "Guardians" do not. I think that we may need a special classification for animals so they aren't considered property, but we still can make decisions for them. Animals certainly need to be protected from "bad" owners, but I don't want anyone else making decisions for my "kids." Words are powerful, and until my "guardianship" has the same rights as my "ownership" I'll be my dogs' owner. And still follow behind them to clean up their poop.

  7. Advocate and guardian are more like it. I don’t want my 2 dogs and 4 gerbils to look at me and think ‘owner’. Very cold and clinical.

  8. Advocate and guardian are more like it. I don't want my 2 dogs and 4 gerbils to look at me and think 'owner'. Very cold and clinical.

  9. I came here via Poodle (& Dog), but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for so eloquently stating what I has been my point of view for me for me.

  10. I came here via Poodle (& Dog), but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for so eloquently stating what I has been my point of view for me for me.

  11. I came here via Poodle (& Dog), but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for so eloquently stating what has been my point of view for me.

    (Sorry I was busy being barked at!)

  12. I came here via Poodle (& Dog), but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for so eloquently stating what has been my point of view for me. (Sorry I was busy being barked at!)

  13. It’s just words and my dogs don’t care if I call them “boo” as long as they get the couch and the bed and the yard and the food and my car and me and ….. I am with you and chief Seattle. We can’t own an animal, no matter how much money we pay for it. We pay for the privlege of caring for that creature and having their companionship. We don’t pay for their love – we earn that. I am also a vegetarian – I love animals. I love my dogs. My dogs are my family and my people. I call them my boys. Is that wrong?

  14. It's just words and my dogs don't care if I call them "boo" as long as they get the couch and the bed and the yard and the food and my car and me and ….. I am with you and chief Seattle. We can't own an animal, no matter how much money we pay for it. We pay for the privlege of caring for that creature and having their companionship. We don't pay for their love – we earn that. I am also a vegetarian – I love animals. I love my dogs. My dogs are my family and my people. I call them my boys. Is that wrong?

  15. Hi,

    You made a good case but I do have one remark.
    But buying dogs definately doesn’t fit in the animal rights philosophy. If you need to pay vet costs in a shelter is normal but if someone makes a profit out of it, it clearly damages animals and keeps a system of animal exploitation running.

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