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The Role of Government in Support of Pet and Animal Welfare

  • A single individual acting alone will have very little impact on public policy. The very best thing that a society can do is develop a plan of work that includes a broad view of needs within that society. That plan should include a vision that provokes voluntary action among all of the people to develop a movement that is committed to the idea that society should look to take care of the most vulnerable among us, and that includes all of the animals on the earth including our pets. Where the actions of these volunteers leave off is where the government should step in and help us to deliver on this vision. Of course, one person's just and benevolent government is another person's "nanny state", therefore this vision needs to take into account the will of all of the people within the society including those who believe in strictly limited government. 

    It would likely come as a surprise to most people to learn to what degree and scope the government is already involved in the management of their lives without them even being aware of it. This extends to pet and animal welfare issues. Pet food is subject to state, federal, and local codes and regulations. The federal government regulates the sale of animal feeds to farmers. Pet adoption, and the appropriation and disposition of stray animals is regulated by state and local governments who also govern the husbanding and keeping of exotic animals. Most states within the U.S. and Canada have special enforcement divisions within their public services departments that handle issues pertaining to nuisance animals, and the pickup of dead and unwanted pets. They also provide temporary shelter for lost pets. They reunite lost pets with their owners, and they work in coordination with the public health departments within their precincts whenever human contact with wild animals becomes an issue. On a local level city officials enforce ordinances that mandate licensing of pets and other domestic animals. Clearly, the government already does quite a bit for us with respect to our pets and animal welfare, but can, and should it do more? 

    There is never a clearly definitive answer to the question of how much government is good government when it comes to the treatment of pets and animal welfare, except to say that our drive to eliminate abuse, neglect, and animal cruelty should not either distract us from, or drain resources from our efforts and obligations related to the elimination of human suffering from this earth if we are to maintain our moral consistency as a society.

    Having established this much, it would be convenient to state that the proper role of government with respect to animal and pet welfare should be determined by a mandate of the people pursuant to the application of the democratic process. The people can choose to elect leaders on all levels of government who share their values with respect to these important matters with an eye towards the premise that a fair and able government picks up where philanthropy and volunteerism let up. 

    The many advocacy groups and currently active social movements help us by way of consensus and determine what is right and what is wrong in connection with the establishment of proper penalties for non-compliance of animal cruelty laws. Exactly what these penalties and costs should be is actually less important than whether or not we apply our regulations and governance uniformly across all jurisdictions, because after all, our pets and all other animals are equal and should be treated equally under the law everywhere.

    Animal abuse and cruelty is a felony crime in only 31 of the 50 United States and across most of Canada. In an ideal world it would be so everywhere on earth. This is a praise worthy goal. A just government is one that knows that something must be done about this problem. Animal and pet abuse should be taken seriously, and this includes the complete reform of the system of pet shops and "puppy mills" in our land and world-wide. At present, this issue is dealt with differently in different places. In Toronto Canada the City Council unanimously voted to cease all sales of dogs and cats in pet stores. The laws they established mandate that retail pet shops only offer dogs and cats that originate from humane societies, The SPCA, and pet shelters. By taking the profit out of abuse, we can reduce the amount of it, therefore; these new laws have meaning and represent real progress. Any kind of new regulation costs money. 

    Perhaps by establishing a licensing fee that would accompany the sale or transfer of any animal whose chain of custody leads from a shelter to a new owner, that fee could fully underwrite the cost of such regulation. So, what once went into the pockets of the puppy mill operator could now be made available to cover the cost of protecting the rights of all pets and animals.


  • Moo Moo
    Moo Moo I do think that animal abuse is a major crime and the Government should step in. I don't think that an animal's life is as important as a child's life. I think that each state should have the same penalties for the same crimes.
    May 23, 2012
  • Me ow
    Me ow I agree with you, Moo Moo. Comparing an animals life to that of a human being is unfair. I don't expect a Momma Bear to be watching my babies if I'm in her woods, she shouldn't be expecting the same from me.
    May 23, 2012
  • tiddles junior
    tiddles junior Property has always been of more importance to the government I'm afraid, so, much as it grieves me to say it, I cannot see anything changing!
    May 28, 2012
  • Mavis Bedford
    Mavis Bedford I think it's really sad that we need to have so much regulation for the welfare of animals. I can't understand why people wouldn't want to do the right thing for them just because it's the right thing, but I guess that's not the world we live in.
    June 7, 2013

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