Animal Rights Uncompromised: ‘Pets’

At PETA, we love and respect the animal companions who share our homes. Contrary to myth, PETA does not want to confiscate beloved, well-cared-for companions and “set them free.” What we do want is to reduce the tragic overpopulation of dogs and cats through spaying and neutering. We work hard to prevent more dogs and cats from being born, because there are nowhere near enough good homes for all the animals who already exist—which results in almost unimaginable suffering.

We encourage people who have the time, money, patience, commitment, and love needed to care for an animal for life to adopt one from a shelter—or, better yet, to adopt two compatible animals so that they can provide each other with companionship. With so many cats and dogs in need of homes, there is no excuse for buying animals from pet shops or breeders, which exacerbate the overpopulation and homelessness crisis.

The greedy industry that breeds animals and sells them as “pets” causes a tremendous amount of misery. Millions of dogs and cats are confined to filthy wire cages in puppy and kitten mills and forced to churn out litter after litter until their exhausted bodies give out and they’re abandoned or killed. Many “purebred” dogs endure a lifetime of debilitating health problems because they have been bred to have distorted physical features, such as unnaturally elongated spines and flattened faces, including through inbreeding.

Other species who are bred and sold as “pets”—including birds, fish, reptiles, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, and even exotic animals such as tigers—face unrelenting suffering. Some are violently abducted from their homes and families in nature and subjected to grueling transport around the world. Many others are bred in massive warehouses, where, as PETA’s investigations have revealed, they’re left to suffer and die without adequate food, water, space, and veterinary care. Few people who purchase these animals have the expertise or ability to meet their specialized needs properly. As a result, many of these animals languish and die prematurely—and painfully.

While breeders reap hefty profits (the U.S. market for breeding in 2021 was $2 billion), with every puppy or kitten they breed and sell, a potential home for an animal in a shelter or on the streets is lost. An estimated 70 million homeless animals are struggling to survive at any given time in the U.S. On the streets, they may be hit by cars and attacked by other animals and cruel humans. They languish and die from contagious diseases and untreated injuries and infections. They freeze in the winter and suffer from heat exhaustion in the summer.

With so many animals in need of homes, there is no chance that we will “run out” of animal companions in our lifetimes. But PETA believes that it would be in animals’ best interests if they were no longer bred to be dependent on humans.

Consider it from the perspective of animals who are kept as companions: Humans control every aspect of their lives—when and what they eat, whom they interact with, what they have to entertain themselves, even when and where they are allowed to relieve themselves. Dogs long to run, sniff, play with other dogs, and mark their territory. Cats yearn to scratch, climb, perch, and play. But they can’t satisfy these natural desires unless the people they depend on give them the opportunity to do so—and they often don’t.

Even well-meaning guardians routinely fail to provide their animals with basic daily necessities—such as fresh water, a clean litter box for cats, and multiple long walks for dogs—as well as opportunities for fun to make their lives interesting and joyous.

Many people acquire animals on impulse, often based solely on looks, without considering what’s best for the animals or their wants and needs. For example, someone who lives in Florida might acquire a Siberian husky—a thick-coated breed especially vulnerable to overheating—because they like the breed’s appearance. But the husky will likely be uncomfortable or even miserable in Florida’s hot, humid climate. Someone who lives in a tiny New York City apartment may acquire a highly energetic breed like a border collie, keep the dog locked in a small space (or worse, a crate) all day long—and then scold the animal for being “hyper” when finally let out.

Humans routinely subject their companions to cruel “convenience” practices: They have their cats’ toes amputated through declawing, drag dogs along when they stop to sniff a hydrant, yell at them to “shut up” every time they make a peep, and lock them up like prisoners in their own homes (“crating”).

Many people also carelessly allow their animals to roam outdoors unattended, rather than spending time with them and walking them on a leash and harness. This neglect puts cats and dogs at extreme risk of being hit by cars, attacked, or abused; contracting diseases; succumbing to weather extremes; and even being shot or poisoned by people who don’t want them on their property.

paws, dogs

animal shelters provide refuge for homeless or abused cats and dogs

Companion animals are completely at humans’ mercy—but many people are merciless, cruel, and violent. PETA’s files are overflowing with reports of abuse, including about dogs and cats who were shot with arrows, blown up with firecrackers, doused in gasoline and set on fire, cooked in microwave ovens, used as bait in dogfights, tortured in satanic rituals, beaten with baseball bats by bored kids, dragged behind cars to “teach them a lesson” for running away, and bound in duct tape to silence their barking. Abuse such as this occurs every day.

For all these reasons and more, PETA works hard to prevent more animals from being born only to end up homeless or abused. Please help us: Sponsor a lifesaving surgery through PETA’s Spay and Neuter Immediately, Please program. Never buy animals from breeders or pet stores. If you have the time, money, patience, commitment, and love needed to care for an animal for life, adopt one from a shelter. Have your animals spayed or neutered, commit to being the best guardian you can be, and urge everyone you know to do the same.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind