Let me start off by saying I am not the Word Police and I am fairly estranged from political correctness. I have pet peeves of course coupled with a love of words that goes beyond nerdy. I recognize the power words have so I try to treat them with respect. In fact, that’s my approach to word choice in general – I try to come from a place of respect toward whatever issue is being discussed.
That said, this post is about how our national conversation regarding pets has been framed and my individual response and effort to proactively shift the perspective in my tiny corner of the world. To be clear, this is not an attempt to dictate to anyone what words should and should not be used in discussion.
I’ll start with some of the most widely used terms:
Euthanasia – This is a kindness we offer to medically hopeless pets by using the gentlest method available to end suffering. This term does not apply to what is done when shelters are attempting to decrease their population by ending the lives of healthy/treatable pets. I don’t consider that to be a kindness in any way, shape or form. I call that killing, not euthanasia. And I am deeply opposed to killing.
Pet overpopulation problem – This is more than simple word choice for me because I actually don’t believe we have a pet overpopulation problem in this country since Nathan Winograd worked out the math disproving it. I do believe however, that we have a shelter pet killing problem that is kept largely in the shadows and left out of our public discussion except when it is incorrectly referenced as a “necessity”.
Stray dogs and feral cats – All strays and ferals have one thing in common: They are either former pets or descendants of pets. Pets are animals we have domesticated for the purpose of companionship and/or a utilitarian function such as guarding sheep. They are not “invasive species” – they are here because we desired their presence and orchestrated their existence at some point. They are pets and since they don’t have a specified owner at the moment, they live in and belong to the community. They are the community’s pets and it is the community’s responsibility to care for them in my view. In the case of strays, this means taking the pets to a shelter to be fed and looked after until a new home is secured. For feral cats, this means adopting a TNR program.
Now for a pet peeve (no pun intended):
Getting rid of pets – I am not the mob. I don’t get rid of my pets. I may place a pet in a new home with a screened applicant but this is intended to be an “upgrade” for the pet by placing him in a more fitting situation. I’m not snuffing him out or even putting him out of sight, out of mind. I am hoping to improve the pet’s quality of life by placing him in an environment where he is more likely to thrive than if he stayed in my home. This is a good thing, not a cement-shoes-and-a-river thing.
And finally, a clarification:
Pet food vs. people food – There is no such thing as pet food or people food. There is food. It is used to feed both pets and people. If you don’t believe me that your pet’s food is made from people food, take a look at the bag or the TV commercial for the product – images of people food, right? Food safety concerns all of us.
And as for people food being harmful to pets – see above. If feeding your pet healthy table scraps from your own plate was truly bad, why would pet food companies advertise that they use those same ingredients to make your pet’s food? It’s just food, albeit healthier and far less processed when it comes from your plate instead of a bag. With some research (pdf) and common sense, we can feed our pets and ourselves safely and healthfully from our one and only food supply.
What other frequently used pet terms are worth giving a second thought? Any pet peeves?