Companion Animals: Responsibilities, Care and Rights


A SYNOPSIS BY Dr. Michael W. Fox

Many illnesses and behavioral problems in dogs, cats and other companion animals can be prevented, and others cured by their caretakers/guardians adhering to five basic principles. These principles combine to make a simple formula to help insure animals’ health and overall well being: Right Understanding and Relationship + Right Breeding/Genetics + Right Nutrition + Right Environment + Right Holistic Veterinary Care. = Animal Health and Well-being.

It is every person’s responsibility as an animal lover and care-provider to recognize the importance of these principles as basic animal rights for several reasons. These include the prevention and alleviation of much animal suffering; and reduced veterinary and other related costs associated with many animal health and behavioral problems, if not most, and even having to euthanize the animal or put her/him up for adoption.

These principles bring out the best qualities in people as caregivers by enhancing the human-non-human animal bond, and in those animals under their care in terms of quality of life and relational/emotional experience. They also provide an ethical compass of responsibility and compassion to advance the moral/character development of children, who, in learning by example how to respect and care for other animals, enhance their self-esteem and self-worth through loving service, and in the process refine their ability to empathize with other sentient beings.

As animals have served and benefited us for millennia and continue to do so in myriad ways, so we benefit the more we serve and help them as our wards, companions, healers, teachers, patients and friends—all of whom are related to us, but are more ancient, if not wiser than we. The bond that people have with the animals in their lives must become a boundless circle of compassion, expanding to encompass all living beings, domestic and wild, captive and free, if we are to justify keeping any animal as a domesticated companion beyond our selfish needs.

                   THE DUTY TO CARE

Our duty to care for our animals, with or without love, calls for basic knowledge and understanding of animals’ needs, and for us to have the resources, ability and commitment to provide for same. Love alone, without real understanding and basic knowledge of animal care, will not suffice in fulfilling this duty, and may cause more harm than good.

                               “Every creature is a word of God”. ---Goethe