The other day I was winding down, lying half comatose on the couch watching cable network news when I was tossed out of my stupor by a PetSmart commercial.
It featured a couple of “new parents” who adopt not one but two puppies from its store.
“What’s it like to be new parents?” the PetSmart employee asks the young couple. The commercial ended with the tagline “PetSmart has all you need to take care of your kids.”
Puppy, Parent, Kids? All of a sudden, owning a pet is equal to raising a child?
This was upsetting to me. It’s really stupid to equate parenting with pet ownership on the surface, and actually misguided in terms of how we in American society are led to think about animals and our relationship with them.
Pets, and animals too, are not humans, and should not be considered or treated as such.
But I should have known. Over the last decade, maybe as part of the “political correctness” phenomenon, our society is being pushed toward humanizing animals as equals in this country in many ways.
Calling and treating pets like children has gained traction as a growing pet industry exploits the very strong emotions associated with owning and caring for an animal.
And as a result, this overwrought love for pets, as evidenced by this pet parent commercial, has caused us as a society to lose perspective on the difference between children and pets. It also depreciates the significance of the human-child relationship.
Actually, the term “pet parent” is yet another very cleaver creation of the pet (or should I say furry kid) industry that, according to the American Pet Products Association, rakes in an estimated $58.51 billion in sales in the United States.
Americans have gone overboard both in their pet spending, in concert with loving their pets and wild animals.
Ask any veterinarian about how fanatical some, if not most, pet owners are about their pets — some probably treat their dogs and cats better than their kids. Ask any divorce lawyer about how bloody the custody of pets can get between two warring spouses, much more so than fights over kids or fortunes.
It’s not just pet marketing. PETA and other animal rights advocates have already succeeded in changing our thinking about our pets in terms of “fairness.” When we hear news about “animal terrorists” performing illegal, if not violent, acts of terror and destruction in the name of “animal rights,” we don’t react against but actually condone such behavior.
“From the circus to the grocery store, Americans are increasingly using their wallets to protest what they view as unfair treatment of animals. The heightened consumer pressure comes amid a shift in understanding among scientists and the general public about animals’ level of consciousness.” — Christian Science Monitor
What’s next? In terms of political correctness, forget about the fight over the name of the Washington Redskins. It’s only a matter of time before the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, and other sports teams have to change their names and mascots, too.
I learned the hard way a few years back that we are already in the realm of irrational animal fanaticism when I wrote an article supporting a ban on pit bulls in overpopulated Miami. I got emailed death threats, abused on Twitter, and called a “breedist (racist)” (soon to be legal classification?) by pit bull owners.
So while I know I’m going to get crucified for writing these thoughts, I think it’s time, like any good parent would, to lay down the law.
Enough is enough already. We need to get our heads back on straight when it comes to loving our pets and defining our relationships with them. Considering ourselves “pet owners” and not “pet parents” is a good start.
This column appeared in Context Florida on March 23, 2015
Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communications strategist who blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary (