Of course there is true, concrete value in loving a pet. Scientific studies show that pets reduce stress and result in better cardiovascular and mental health for their owners. Pet owners are more likely to be physically active if they have a dog. Plus, oxytocin release (the love hormone) through a good hug or rub just makes you feel better.
So the emotional and health value of pets is unquestioned. What about the monetary value?
In this country, pets are legally considered property. They do not have rights. So if your pet is harmed or killed due to the negligence of others, and you decided to sue, you would only be entitled to the cost of purchase. At face value this seems crazy. Your pet is worth more than $150 isn’t it? I couldn’t even put a price on what Bubba and Gunner meant to me.
Veterinarians are stuck between and rock and a hard place on this one. We want to elevate the human-animal bond and make animals more important in society. We advocate for animal well-being and medical care. But by improving the status of pets in this country we might be changing the definition of what a pet-owner relationship is. If we elevate a cat’s status in the US are we obligated to imbue it with its own rights? If we see it as a sentient being, capable of feeling emotions like fear, pain, or joy shouldn’t it be worth more than the cost of a tune up?
If animals have rights, then we better have laws to protect them. Since this is America we sure should have the right to sue if they are harmed.
Here’s the rub, making animals more valuable in society makes them less affordable to society in general. Like kids, you might then be prosecuted if you ignore their medical needs. Someone could be given authority to decide if you are suitable or not for pet ownership.
If people can’t afford pets, they won’t have them. More will end up in shelters, more will be euthanized, fewer will get veterinary care (especially preventative care), more will suffer.
We’ll suffer too, having a pet teaches you daily about love and compassion, they make us more human, more humane. Is there a legitimate way to argue for more responsibility for our pets without changing their rights? Is there a way to improve their quality of life while preserving ours? What do you think?