A dog, a cat, a bird, a ferret, a fish, a snake, a frog or a spider. Each is a pet to someone. Each is loved in a way that is special to its owner. Some are not quite your fancy while another is perfect for you.
Across the United States more than 65 million of us choose to have a pet and I respect the rights of every single one of them to responsibly do so. I myself have never owned or wanted to own a spider but I completely understand the affection and awe that arachnid lovers have for their creatures. Nobody is likely to argue that they are as affectionate as a dog, but you know what? They don’t have to be in order to be a pet. Being a pet owner is not always about companionship. It is about many other things. Things like personal responsibility, a sense of wonder, a deeper understanding of and a connection with nature, and a sense of pride for the way you care for your animal. All of those are valid reasons for pet ownership.
Millions of Americans own spiders. Millions more own reptiles or birds. Multiple millions more have a dog or a cat. I have never questioned the choice of pet that an individual makes. Your choice to be a responsible pet owner is good enough for me. The family that chooses a dog as their family pet is just as correct as the couple who has a pet python or the little girl who has a pet hamster.
Being a pet owner is a common bond shared by multiple millions of responsible Americans. It is unlikely that I will ever own a spider or a ferret or a bird but I will absolutely defend the rights of other Americans to do so. For their own misguided reasons there are people out there who think they need to inflict their peronal preferences on you and me. They choose not to own pets of a particular persuasion and feel that nobody else should either. There is something inherintly audacious and conceited in that perspective and it disappoints me. They trumpet their cause under the banner of “humane treatment”, “protecting the environment” or “public safety” but the reality is that they want the world to be as they see it. They don’t accept that a diverse group of people make diverse choices in pets. Their desire to force-feed us their view of the world pushes me toward anger. What is even more disappointing is their saavy ability to abuse the political processes in our country to push closer to their desired end.
Around this country pet ownership is under attack. It is happening at the local, state and federal level. The rights of dog breeders have been crushed in Tennessee and the rights of reptile owners are in jeopardy in Florida and nationally. I’m sure that bird owners and breeders are under attack somewhere right now and I don’t even know about it. Pet owners, because of their diversity have had a historical lack of cohesion. Within small groups (usually by choice of animal) we fight against those who want to take away our rights. But the small size of each group diminishes our voice. The enemies of pet ownership know this and have been using it against us for a long time. When the day comes that we start to look at one another as “pet owners” and not bird owners, snake owners, dog owners or cat owners we will become a much more powerful voice against those who are working to limit or eliminate our pet owning rights. The combined voices of the Humane Society of the United States, PETA and all the other organizations seeking to limit or end the rights of pet owners are a mere whimper when compared to the power of a collective voice of all pet owners in America. Think about it.
If humans are the custodians of this planet then keeping pets is a link to that greater responsibility. Pet ownership is an attachment to nature and a doorway to a lifetime of learning for many young Americans. We (as in ALL pet owners) must all work collectively to protect that right.