This past Christmas time at the mall, I witnessed a woman set her sweater-clad dog on Santa's lap, excitedly talking to the animal as one would a small child. "Can you believe you're meeting Santa Claus?" she asked the terrier. A line of at least 50 people deep trailed behind her. Each person had with them a dog. At the same mall, I spied a sweatshirt for sale bearing the embroidered statement, "Dogs are people too," which is alarmingly similar to PETA's credo, "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy; they're all mammals."
A disturbing trend is spreading through American culture like weeds in a neglected lot; the trend of elevating pets to the level of children, other family members, and even to the status of God. Caring for pets has become big business. Big as in $36 billion a year big. Dog day care, designer dog clothing, human-grade pet food, catered birthday parties for dogs, all have sprung up as a result of owners failing to see the differences between pets and people. The vast majority of today's pet owners, 83%, consider themselves the "mother" or "father" of their pet, and routinely say the creature is a "four-legged child." They pamper it accordingly.
Equating animals with our young people cannot be good for society. It devalues children. It devalues all of humanity, period. When the concept of the family erodes to the point where animals are included, you can be certain cultural decay is in full slide. People have inherent dignity. People are special simply by being people. Membership has it privileges, because Homo sapiens have important mental abilities which all animal species lack. This really irks Ivory Tower types like Peter Singer, an irreligious atheist, who thinks a chimpanzee is more worthy of life than a disabled human baby. Fortunately most people reject Singer's bizarre philosophies except, it seems, when it comes to their pets for which they have a ridiculously lofty regard.
I once had a pet-related exchange with an e-mail friend who declared. "You can always replace a dead child, but you can never replace a pet." I've seen bumper stickers announce, "The more people I know, the more I like my dog", and "If I wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little feet. I'd put shoes on my dog" (Dog shoes really exist!). Apparently the step of deeming pets on par with people is not far from liking pets better than people. Certainly this does not apply to all pet owners, but the misanthropic "pets are better than people" tendency should not exist at all.
God too has been diminished by the elevation of pets. Canines in particular are now thought of in a role once reserved for Jesus. Dogs, we are told by the media and doting owners, give unconditional love and are always there for us with judgment-free acceptance. These are Christ-like qualities being attributed to instinct-driven domesticated animals. What is seen as "love" and "loyalty" is just pack behavior and instinctive submission to the food-providing alpha-wolf, which the owner becomes. When an editor of a popular dog pampering magazine was asked how he could mock God with the publication's motto, "Dog is my co-pilot," he replied he did not believe in God, and that there was more to life than Christianity.
It gets worse. An Episcopalian church in Stanford, Connecticut, apparently desperate for parishioners, has begun encouraging people to bring their pets to services. What a sad sign of the times that God's word alone isn't enough to fill the pews. What would Jesus think about pets being considered human in His Father's House? Can you imagine Christ referring to a dog or cat as his "four-legged child" or "fur kid"? Interestingly, dogs are given a lowly portrayal in the Bible, and cats aren't mentioned at all. When standards become lax, we really do "go to the dogs." Dogs are turning up at weddings, funerals, grocery stores, and other places where they were never allowed before. If frog populations are said to be the barometer of the health of the ecosystem, then the status of dogs are a culture's barometer. Let the quip, "he who lays down with dogs gets up with fleas," become cautionary advice.
Scientists are also guilty of comparing certain animals to children, mainly two- and three-year olds. A casual glance at a developmental list of mental abilities for the average toddler makes the animal comparison blatantly insulting. Kids that age can talk, laugh, smile, give a description of a suspect to police, play simple board games, paint, and even compose poetry. Dogs, cats, monkeys, aardvarks, skunks, you name it, are as far apart from any child/person as a lump of coal is from a diamond. Both are made of carbon, but one is "precious in his sight." This does not mean owners cannot enjoy their pets and other animals, but they should be careful not to fall into the trap of anthropomorphizing.
We have a moral compass, self-awareness, spirituality, and free
will. These make us unique. In an era when no-kill animal
shelters are sprouting up while abortions are performed, it cannot be
emphasized enough that people are more important than pets, and by the
same token, pets should never be compared to children.
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