Even though some states are dancing around the issue, dogs (and other animals) are considered property or possessions in the eyes of the law. Along with that designation comes the generally accepted mentality that people are owners of their animals. As possessions, dogs are bred for money, raised in puppy mills for monetary gain, sold in pet stories, forced to be a part of the racing circuit, entered in shows, used for entertainment, and exploited in many other ways.
While it is true that in the U.S. there are certain laws designed to protect animals from abuse and neglect, those laws are often very difficult to enforce and generally not strong enough to really protect animals at risk. That’s a whole different topic of discussion.
So, what’s the real issue here? For me, regardless of what the law says, people who see themselves as owners of their dog (or any other animal) are missing the point of living with a dog. To place a monetary value on your dog suggests that your dog is very much like your toaster or your car. You own the inanimate objects in your life, but to put your dog in the same category as your couch or TV dismisses the value of a living being in your home. To think that you own your dog is showing a lack of respect and value to the presence of the dog in your life.
And no, I’m not saying that dogs are like people and should be treated as such. Dogs are dogs and humanizing them not only does them a disservice, but completely ignores their value as a life form.
I’m guessing that most of you reading this blog don’t think of your dogs as property, but I’ll bet many of you do use the word “owner” to describe your relationship to your dog. Maybe you don’t mean to imply that your dog is just a possession, but words can take on lives of their own when they’re used often enough.
Remember the blog I wrote earlier about the ripple effect of our thoughts and actions? Just as what we think, feel and do creates an energy that generates a ripple effect, the words we use do the same thing. If what I’m saying here resonates with you in some way, the next time you hear yourself using the word “owner” to describe your relationship with your dog, stop and use a word that more closely fits what you feel your relationship really is to your companion—i.e. friend, guardian, caregiver …. Then, pay it forward. If you hear someone use the word owner to describe their relationship to their dog ask them to really think about what they’re saying.
Note: You will see the word “owner” used on the Old Dog Haven website and Facebook page because shelters and rescue groups are required by law to use that designation to indicate legal possession. I hate it that we have to do that, but until the wording of the law changes, it is what it is. I wonder how long it will take the U.S. to catch up to France where, according to law, animals are considered to be “living and feeling beings.”