FERGUSON: Should animals have human rights?

May 16, 2014 

I have a confession to make. This is going to rub some people the wrong way and others will agree with me 100 percent. My confession is that my pets, my dog and my cat, are more important to me than most human beings.

If the world was coming to an end tomorrow and I had the power to save only a few lives, my immediate family would come first. Then I’d probably choose to save a few close friends. After that relatively small group had been safely evacuated, my dog and cat would come next. And If I were to be painfully honest, the pets might be higher up on the priority list than I’m willing to admit here.

That’s right readers -- you human beings who I don’t know or don’t know very well would all perish if there was only room in my escape pod for two more after my small inner circle had climbed aboard. I’d feel bad for you, if that’s a comfort.

A lot of you who own pets know just what I mean, and you feel the same way. Others will say that humans should take priority over animals, since we are created in God’s image. I understand that way of thinking, and maybe I’m wrong for feeling the way I do. But when the stuff hits the fan I’m saving those I care about the most first, regardless of what species they happen to be.

Some people feel even more strongly about this than I do. They believe dogs and cats (and perhaps all animals) should have the same rights under the law that people have. They feel it is immoral to treat other living things as possessions we can do with as we please.

And the law has been trending away from treating pets as mere possessions for a while now. There are anti-cruelty laws in all 50 states, and in some cases, they include steep fines and/or prison time for the most egregious cases. People even sometimes fight over custody of their pets during divorce proceedings, and some leave their pets an inheritance when they pass away.

Of course there are those who want to take it much further and confer all the same rights that humans have on our four-legged companions. If that were to happen, it would change our lives in some rather interesting ways.

Imagine being charged with negligent homicide for running over a dog, or being arrested for domestic assault for swatting Fido with a rolled up newspaper when he “goes” on the carpet. We might even have to expand DFACS responsibilities to ensure that every pet is being taken care of properly or have them removed and placed in foster care.

That would probably be going too far, but I do believe people who mistreat, abuse, or fail to care properly for their pets should be held responsible for their actions under the law. I know such laws exist, but in my experience they are not usually well-enforced.

It seems that everywhere I’ve ever lived, there is always at least one idiot in the neighborhood who keeps a dog chained up outside with no protection from the elements or keeps one in a much-too-small pen where it has little room to move around.

People shouldn’t adopt pets unless they have the resources and the commitment to care for them.

It’s probably not reasonable to confer all the rights afforded to people on animals, but I do believe we should respect the right of all living things to exist without being mistreated. Everything that is alive is a miracle in its own right. I think it is a sin of a most grievous nature to show a lack of respect for any of God’s creatures.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.

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