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‘PET’ PEEVES: Companion animals pay a high price but can help unite us all

Dogs, for example, can serve as a 'gateway' species to bridge the empathy gap to include other nonhumans and humans in the arena of compassion. If only people stopped thinking of themselves as 'owners' and foster a more reciprocal relationships based on respect and kindness.

MARC BEKOFF: There has been wide debate on whether humans should even own animals. One recent article promotes having more empathy for animals by stopping ownership of them. And there have been opposing arguments on why owning a pet is good… This debate has motivated me to find out what people thought about how likely it is that living with companion animals will disappear anytime soon and what role they could play as a “gateway” species for connecting us to other nonhumans and humans. I talked with 65 people and the results were very clear: 63 said pets will never go away and two were unsure, while 61 said pets could be “gateway” species to connect us with other animals and humans and four said they were unsure…

A lot of people are thinking more seriously about the nature of companion animal-human relationships and how one-sided they all too often are. However, pet ownership most likely won’t become a practice of the past, and surely not anytime soon. But, let’s think more about how living with pets can increase empathy for them and other animals. I’ve argued that dogs, for example, can serve as a “gateway” species to bridge the empathy gap to include other nonhumans in the arena of compassion and also bring humans together. If people stopped thinking of themselves as “owners” this, too, would go a long way toward improving their relationships with dogs and other companion animals. It would help to foster more reciprocal, even, give-and-take relationships based on respect and kindness.

When we give dogs and other companions the best lives possible, one that works for them and us, it can easily spill into more freedom and justice for all animals, including ourselves. Who could argue that more trust, empathy, compassion, freedom, and justice wouldn’t be the best thing we could do for all animals and for future generations who will inherit our wondrous planet? I surely don’t know anyone who would do so.

I often also wonder if dogs, by bridging the empathy gap among humans, could help to heal our own troubled world by bringing together people of all ages and all cultures who share an attachment and affection for these wonderful beings. This would be a win-win for all animals, both nonhuman and human. And I think it is entirely possible when we open our hearts and senses to who these amazing beings truly are. SOURCE…


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