Enjoy Animals—in Their Place!
THE young married couple were making their first visit to Berlin, Germany. There were many things to see—the opera house, lakes, museums and historic spots. Yet one of their cherished memories was of something that they saw at the zoo.
In the spacious area for the snow (polar) bears, one bear was bounding into and out of the water as he played with a long-handled shovel. They watched him toss his odd toy up into the air and then dive underwater to retrieve it. There is no doubt that he was having fun. And what a joy it was to watch him!
Have you also not delighted in watching or being with animals? Maybe it was a time when, after much patience on your part, a chipmunk or a squirrel came close enough to pick a nut out of your fingers. Or perhaps you even now smile at the memory of when you stroked a tame deer or watched your new pet kitten chasing after a leaf.
Frankly, almost all of us can find much enjoyment in animals. Oh, yes, maybe you have some doubts about snakes, spiders, bats or something of that sort. And yet, by and large, most of us find animals to be enjoyable and interesting.
There is a need, however, to keep animals in their relative and proper place if we are to enjoy them fully. An example, admittedly an extreme one, forcefully illustrates this point.
One man was intensely fond of his pet—a five-foot boa constrictor. Though his wife feared it, he insisted on taking the snake to bed with them, sleeping with it coiled around his body. He began bringing the boa to the dinner table, draping it over his shoulders. When, finally, he started to feed it live mice at the table, his wife could stand it no more. She got a divorce. The husband? He proceeded to get another boa constrictor, hoping the two would mate. Obviously he enjoyed animals, at least this kind. But did he enjoy them to a reasonable degree, or in their proper place?
Unless you live on a farm your enjoyment of animals may be limited mainly to dogs, cats, small birds or fish. Yet, some individuals have pet turtles, hamsters or certain insects, such as fleas or cockroaches. Really, the list of pets is vast. Japanese children often tame mice. Some Australians make pets of kangaroos. Then what about mongooses, frogs, monkeys and otters? And, incredible as it sounds, some 10,000 Americans own large cats such as lions and leopards as pets!
One book reported recently that there were eight million dogs and cats in West Germany and some 16.5 million in France. The London Times (September 9, 1967) said that in a single year the British spent £95,555,304 on food for over 5 million dogs, 4.5 million cats and 3.5 million birds, fish and small animals. As to the United States, Time magazine stated:
“The U.S. today is undergoing what can only be described as an animalthusian explosion. . . . The some 100 million dogs and cats in the U.S. reproduce at the rate of 3,000 an hour, [versus] the 415 human babies born each 60 minutes. An estimated 60% of the 70 million American households own pets.”
If you, too, enjoy animals—whether you have a pet or not—you may have thought about the various benefits of animals.
Value of Animals
It is quite natural that most humans should find animals enjoyable and important, for Jehovah placed them on earth as a valuable part of our earth’s ecology. He knew that man could benefit by having both the “wild” and “domestic” ones sharing together this globe of ours. (Gen. 1:24) For instance, who of us has not benefited from comfortable and durable clothing made from wool? And could this not have been true even of Adam’s family, since his son Abel was “a herder of sheep”?—Gen. 4:2.
But animals, particularly pets, are often valuable in other ways. They may protect a person’s property or life. Imagine how many persons have been protected from being mugged or assaulted because they were walking with a loyal dog that would bark and defend its master. A woman in a nice section of Brooklyn said with an understanding smile that, though many nearby homes had been burglarized, hers had not. Her family has a 100-pound Great Dane whose “woof” would give any would-be robber second thoughts—third and fourth thoughts too! Still, that black-and-white Dane is so mild and affectionate to the family and their friends that they really enjoy him.
If you are a parent, you may have an animal in the home because you feel that a pet can be an important part of a child’s life. In this regard the Encyclopædia Britannica says:
“Keeping pets offers the opportunity to teach children the close dependence of privilege on responsibility and also something about sex; the process of mating is soon noticed, followed by such matters as gestation periods and the varied problems involved in the birth and care of young.”
If you choose to have a pet for your children’s sake, for them to benefit most fully the children must be trained as to the responsibility involved. Would it show any deep care for your children or for a pet to allow it to be neglected once the initial enthusiasm for it waned or once it was no longer “cuddly”? If you teach your children to share in the cleaning, feeding, exercise and discipline of the pet, not just doing it yourself, you will be helping them. And everyone will enjoy the pet more.
Caring for a pet, as well as having its companionship, has aided many retarded children and youths with emotional problems. One reason is that they may respond when they feel that a part of God’s living creation is dependent on them. Also, a pet may help them to relate to the “outside world.” A London psychology worker told of a disturbed boy who had communication problems and an obsessive fear of dirt. As the lad became interested in Daisy, a pet dog, he started to communicate better, talking to his parents about the pet. When Daisy had five pups and he could help to care for them, he overcame his obsession about cleanliness.
But, of course, a person does not have to have emotional problems to enjoy a pet’s companionship. Have you ever sat quietly in a chair softly caressing a purring cat? Have you ever listened to the melodious singing of a pet canary, or been welcomed home by the happy barks of your dog? Then you know that animals can bring much enjoyment.
Even persons who enjoy animals very much usually realize that reasonableness is needed in connection with them. If you have a pet, or may get one, you should not overlook some important factors relative to enjoying animals, particularly pets.
Cost certainly is one factor. Simply stated, a pet costs money. Of course, so does attending a soccer match, going to a theater or pursuing a hobby such as oil painting. A reasonable view, then, is to weigh the enjoyment obtained in the light of its cost. Time magazine said:
“Americans spend $2.5 billion a year on commercially prepared pet food alone to feed their pets—more than six times as much as they spend on baby food, and more than enough to nourish the one-third of the world’s population that goes hungry. . . . For each dollar spent on pet food, Americans lavish at least as much for pet products and services.”
Many persons obtaining a pet do not anticipate a large expense. But costs have a way of mounting. Perhaps special food seems advisable. The pet gets ill and requires treatment. Licenses, cages, leashes and so on may be needed.
When her husband died, Mrs. E. bought a Sealyham terrier. She grew very fond of it. At the end of a year, however, she calculated how much her pet cost. She had gradually come to feed it special meat and snacks—$547.50 in one year. Shots and medicines—$50; grooming and accessories (sprays, collars, toys and so forth)—$291; kennel care when she traveled—$126. After giving this example, a book about pets concluded:
“When Mrs. E. found that she had spent, in one year, [$1,014.50] on her dog, a sum equivalent to the annual income of a migrant worker in California, she decided there was something basically wrong about treating animals, however much one loved them, better than people.”
That was her conclusion. Someone else might conclude that for him the benefits of having a pet warrants the cost. In any event, a person ought to weigh the expense and use reasonableness in deciding what is best for him. Priorities differ, as do circumstances. One African said:
“In the general economic climate of undeveloped Africa it is very difficult for people to understand how the higher paid members of the community can spend as much, if not more, money on feeding dogs and cats and horses than the average person spends feeding his whole family.”
Thus, in many parts of Africa, dogs are left to scavenge for their food. So, even many dogs that are owned to protect the home are “so painfully thin that you can count their ribs.”
Perhaps you feel that you would not want your pet to be in that condition. Then are you prepared to bear the cost of keeping it fed and healthy? More and more persons who have pets find that they are not able to care for them properly. So humane societies are receiving for destruction many emaciated pets. Other people throw animals into the streets or abandon them in a field, even though they may not be able to survive there. That surely is no way to “enjoy” an animal.
A person having a reasonable outlook on enjoying animals also recognizes potential hazards, just as you give thought to any hazards that might be part of a sport or other recreation you are considering. Certainly being bitten is one possible danger with a pet. The Toronto Star said: “Dr. Bruce Feldman [a specialist in pets] points out that in the U.S. about one person in 170 is bitten by dogs annually, ‘and at least as many bites are unreported.’ Applying these figures to Canada, it is possible that as many as 100,000 Canadians suffered animal bites” in 1974.
But it is not just dogs that present this danger. Dr. Harvey Rhein, a former president of a veterinary association, said:
“As far as I’m concerned, no wild animal makes an acceptable pet. Monkeys are too close to man; they can both pick up and spread human diseases. I’m also opposed to raccoons, skunks and squirrels. Despite claims of some people, who’ve domesticated these animals, that they make lovable pets, there remains a question of rabies being a latent virus. All these animals are biters; they can do so—fiercely.”
Aside from bites, some doctors warn about pet-borne diseases. A newspaper article entitled “New Pet-Induced Ills Challenging Doctors” listed diseases contracted from turtles, hamsters, cats and dogs. A number of these diseases, which range in potential seriousness from flulike symptoms to fatal infections, are spread in the urine and feces of the animals. Time magazine commented:
“Each day across the nation, dogs deposit an estimated 4 million tons of feces and 42 million quarts of urine on city streets and parks. . . . More than 100 human infections, from diphtheria to tuberculosis, can be picked up by animals and passed on to their owners. Dog defecation is also rich in toxocara (roundworm), which can cause blindness in children.”
Is this to say that you should fear to be around all animals? No, just as the danger of attack from some human or contracting a disease from such a source does not lead us to shrink from all human association. But these factors about pets ought to be considered by a person in determining in what ways and to what degree he or she will enjoy animals.
Reasonable in Affection
As we have discussed, animals can be valuable in many ways. And there is abundant proof that a pet can be a pleasant, entertaining and devoted companion. Understandably, humans might respond with affection, wanting to be kind and to care for a pet.
Still, the fact that some imperfect humans go to extremes with regard to various pleasures and interests should alert us to the danger of “going overboard” concerning animals.
Did you know that persons have provided their pets with things such as gold bracelets, black lace panties, evening gowns and birthday parties? They have obtained clip-on diapers for their parrakeets, false eyelashes for their poodles and sunglasses for vacationing pets. One New York woman has her two dogs picked up each day in a chauffeured limousine; they are slowly driven around a park “so they may have some fresh air and see some green.”
Individuals become so emotionally wrapped up with pets that the animals govern human lives. One couple was going to emigrate to Australia. They already had shipped their furniture. But when their Alsatian dog failed a medical exam and was refused entry, they canceled their passage and paid £500 for their furniture to be sent back. They said: “A new life would have been meaningless if we had sacrificed our dog for it. She is part of our marriage.”
As with the man and his boa constrictor, for some persons a pet becomes even more important than marital attachments. One woman kept six Siamese cats, though her husband was allergic to cats and had nearly choked to death a number of times. Even though pregnant with her first child, she was willing to have a divorce rather than live without her cats. It is reported that she “only hoped her child would not inherit the father’s allergy.”
When affection for animals is not controlled by reasonableness, pets can seem even more important than human life. Hysterical pet owners gathered outside during a fire in one animal hospital. The report is that “women screamed, tore their hair, several fainted, and two tried to break through the cordon, crying that they wanted to die with their darlings.”
Yes, reasonableness is needed. Otherwise a person might gradually allow animals to occupy an increasingly important place in his life and affections. As we have seen, this can and does happen. Whereas at first a person might think that it would be pleasant to have a pet around the home, without reasonableness being manifested he could get to the point of spending inordinate amounts of money, time and attention on the pet. Or, even though he is a clean person, he might come to permit himself to be “kissed” by a pet that had recently been licking its sexual and anal areas or eating something unsanitary. Surely extremes need to be guarded against.
Also, a person ought to evaluate his intention in regard to a pet. Is it a matter of settling on the affection or companionship of an animal as a substitute for obtaining such from humans? In his book Tiere Sind Ganz Anders (Animals Are Quite Different), Hans Bauer observed: “It is altogether unreasonable to ‘fly to the animal world’ because one is ‘disappointed’ by men.” He went on to mention how sad it is for someone to ‘bestow his affections on a dog or a cat in the hope of discovering in an animal what he has failed to find among his own species’ when an animal’s “whole nature prevents it from ever giving” this to him.
Enjoying Animals in Their Place
Actually, the Bible shows that the exact opposite should be the case. After the Creator made all the forms of animal life, he concluded that what he had made was “very good.” (Gen. 1:20-31) Undoubtedly, the first man Adam wholeheartedly agreed with that conclusion. But what place did animals hold in Adam’s life?
Since we today can find such pleasure in watching and being near animals, just imagine Adam’s joy in the animals and especially at the time when God brought them all to him for naming. (Gen. 2:19, 20) Job later said that animals, besides bringing enjoyment, can be a means of much instruction about the Creator. (Job 12:7-9) Adam must have realized that too. Still, the Bible record says that, having surveyed and enjoyed all the animals, Adam found no full companion or complement among them. Adam was an intelligent human made in God’s image, and a similarly endowed creature is what he needed as a complement. As enjoyable, devoted, instructive, amusing or interesting as animals might be, God never purposed that they be a substitute for humans. Do we appreciate this? If so, it will enhance our enjoyment of animals, for we will see them in the proper light and hold them in the place that God purposed for them.
Questions remain, though, about the life and death of animals, such as whether men have the right to kill animals, how we should view the death of an animal, killing such for food, and so forth. We will leave these questions for consideration in a later issue.