The Philosophy of Dog.

Day of the Dead Dog, commercially available online

Everyone who has an opinion about dogs bases the opinion on his/her belief system about dogs. Many dog owners have very simple belief systems about dogs. Some believe dogs are their surrogate children. This belief affects every behavior toward the dog. Some people believe they should have a dog to make their family complete with a beloved pet. Neither of these kinds of dog owners may have any real understanding of a dog’s needs, but most of the time it doesn’t matter, anyway, because dogs are very adaptable to human demands, however extreme.

People who expect a dog to earn a living, like herders and hunters, shape their dogs to their needs, too. They are probably the very people who originally transformed the wolf into a dog, before there was agriculture and settled towns. To this day, they keep up their lines and local types of dogs, who perform to their needs and they cast off all that can’t work. They are very pragmatic.

Around the world throughout history, dog was often in the stew pot. Some cultures loved to eat dogs, year round and others only for special occasions, their philosophy about dogs in some places in SE Asia to this day, is that they may be smart, but so are pigs, and a lot of people want to eat both, anyway. They are a very dependable food supply. The ancient Aztecs and related cultures were also avid dog eaters. With few exceptions, dog was the only domestic animal in the New World and the only universal one. This is also a very pragmatic philosophy.

Other cultures thought it acceptable to hit, kick or beat other humans- and all animals, too. Maybe a culture can be judged by its attitude toward physical abuse in humans and in keeping dogs. The trend in our culture is to believe physical abuse is bad, but not all adhere to that philosophy, yet. Europeans and Americans have both had long histories of treating their property as they saw fit, and no one interfered. Not only was dog abuse regular, if not universal, people owned other people and abused them, too. Wives and children were also slaves, that is, property, of the male owner.

The trend since the 1880’s or so, with many major exceptions, has been towards tolerating less and less abuse of property, because women and children were still property even after commercial slavery ended. That philosophy appears to be dying, slowly. Still, disciplining children and animals with physical force has been even slower to disappear. While far less common, it still occurs.

Even though no such movement was started on behalf of women and children,  the 1860’s saw the founding of the animal rights movement through the bureaucracy of the ASPCA, which in reality became the kill facility for New York’s stray dogs for 100 years. For many years this philosophy towards animals was described as a humane movement and focused on preventing cruelty to animals in their fundraising. They believed the “humane” thing to do was kill all cast offs and strays. They also had a some police-like powers to stop abuse and remove abused animals.

Animals had the right to not have to endure cruel treatment was probably  the original philosophy behind the humane movement, though they would not have put it in those terms. It was the beginning of the movement that eventually led some people to develop the philosophy that animals have rights.

The next major development in this trend came mid 20th century when a new bureaucracy was born known as HSUS (humane society of the US). HSUS joined in the work to treat animals humanely. From then to now, people have thought they were contributing to their local humane societies in contributing to the national organization. The national organization is not involved with animals in shelters, as are the local shelters and do not use funds to go to the local humane societies, but to national concerns such as factory farming, animal fighting, the fur trade, puppy mills, and wildlife abuse such as newborn seal hunting. They did fund 5 shelters during the 1960’s and 70’s. they are the second major wave of dog police who could actively intervene in ongoing abuse.

Thirty years later, the 1980’s saw the rise of PETA. While directly rooted in the earlier humane movements, PETA takes the philosophy that animals have rights. Then they got to decide what those rights are. They apparently decided that animals have the right not to be domesticated, farmed, or eaten, ridden, bred, showed, hunted, worked or fought. In fact PETA’s philosophy is that there should be no domestic animals, whatsoever, and their elimination from the face of the earth is their ultimate goal. Ultimately the only people who could adhere to this philosophy would have to be vegan.

PETA also believes that the wild, natural animal world should not be touched or used in any way whatsoever, either. No fishing. No collecting honey; certainly no hunting. No using shells or horns or bones left lying around. No wearing of pearls, let alone coral, no using hides or horns from road kill.

One might wonder what that leaves? It leaves agriculture, and perhaps flower gardens, because PETA is founded on the logical extension of veganism. Actually, veganism is just one end result, if one wants to treat animals humanely- or one does not want to exploit animals, at all, ever. (Exploit is the only word PETA considers correct in man’s relationship to animals.)

Perhaps big agriculture and other kinds of plant culture, and gardening are the sole living beings a vegan can exploit. I suppose it must be organic agriculture, because insecticides kill animals. Well, maybe plowing should not be allowed, because it displaces/kills all kinds of ground animals from worms to gophers, prairie dogs, and ground squirrels from their habitats. Well, that appears to be taking the philosophy of non-exploitation of animal life too far, because it is impossible to virgin plow without violence to the wildlife. That concern is ignored, however, because to take that line of thought to its logical extreme would allow only little plots in areas certified clear of ground dwellers and that would be impossible, so I think hydroponic farming in buildings built for that purpose is becoming the ultimate vegan solution. Well, the buildings might displace dome critters, but that would be the end of it.

Except for one little thing. PETA thinks it IS fine to kill. Exploit, never, kill, yes. They may hold the record for the most killings in their own animal shelters, ever. I believe over 90% of the animals taken to PETA shelters are dispatched summarily, with no effort to find homes. PETA is responsible for killing millions of dogs and cats. Because dogs are domestic animals, they feel morally correct in their mass murders, because there should be no such thing as a domestic animal.

PETA has managed to move the philosophy of HSUS much further down the path to its own viewpoint, which puts it in an untenable position, philosophically. Vegans are barely 1% of the population, yet they have used political correctness to further their anarchistic agenda. The entire country is under the sway of PETA’s radical agenda and HSUS is caving to join them more and more.

In summary, the three great humane organizations, The SPCA, HSUS, and PETA, share the major responsibility, for the institutional killing of pets, which is strangely in contrast to what most people think they do. They are all bureaucracies, which means their foremost reason for being is to perpetuate their own existence. And their major occupation other than killing surplus animals is collecting funds from a foolish public, who thinks they are doing good and saving animal lives when they are really just collecting more funds to further their fantasies of how to deal with animals.

The natural and inevitable reaction to these enormous institutions is the “No kill” movement.This movement is made up of people who set up rescues and no-kill shelters and remove animals from the govt run pounds and animal control people. This seems good in principle, but is often not ideal for the rescued animals. The approved rescuers can go get as many animals from the pound as they want and so they fill up fast. When emergencies come along, they take them even though it is not the best thing to do with crowded foster homes. PETA seems to delight in busting rescues operating under less than ideal conditions and taking them to court and even getting prison sentences- against rescue people themselves.

Not that I like the rescue movement in every detail. They have a philosophy about spaying and neutering not only rescued animals, which I can understand, but they will not even adopt out a neutered animal to a home with intact animals, even though there is no chance of breeding. They are imposing their beliefs/philosophy about breeding on anyone who wants to adopt rather than buy.

What all the above bureaucracies and movements agree on is neutering every possible animal that comes on their radar. The only exception seems to be breeders of purebred registered dogs, even though they are notoriously the worst dog breeders on the planet as they adhere to the philosophy of the closed registry, no matter how much inbreeding follows.

The prevailing myth seems to be that there is a huge surplus of unwanted dogs. In fact, there are so many unwanted dogs that some people want to make laws against breeding dogs at all. The fact is that the  population of animals making it to the pound has declined radically, since people started encouraging adoptions from pounds.

Wikipedia states,

Nathan Winograd, of the No Kill Advocacy Center, believes that there is no real pet overpopulation problem and that there are more than enough homes for every dog and cat being killed in shelters every year. He claims that based on data from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, and the latest census that “there aren’t just enough homes for the dogs and cats being killed in shelters. There are more homes for cats and dogs opening each year than there are cats and dogs even entering shelters

How well known is this? Not at all well known, as it turns out. There is a need for pounds, but the infrastructure to adopt healthy dogs out is working extremely well. It should be encouraged, so that there are no unnecessary dog deaths.

And people should be discussing what responsible dog breeding actually is. The AKC has the strongest view on that, next to the rescue movement, but I will take that up, later.


Lisa C

Cool article, Kate! I think that the research article generalizes too much when it says there’s no over abundance of healthy pets to possible placements. Regionally, the numbers are more accurate. For instance, in Pinellas Co, FL there’s something like 4-5 feral cats per resident. The rescue society there is doing a fine job of helping feral-cat adopters with bags of food, and coupons to help with the cost of neutering.

Well, I consider ANY help as a fine job…maybe others would say there’s never enough to go around.


Lisa C

Also, some people just can’t afford or don’t want pets. Do you think the researcher took this into account when compiling the numbers? Asking because I don’t know.

I always look forward to reading your column!



Thanks for commenting! I thought I was mainly referring to dogs. Out here in the country parts of AZ, there is hardly a feral cat problem. We have coyotes who dispatch all cats, but the most protected. There are more in town, 0 out here. They will neuter any feral cat for free at the local humane society. Catch, neuter, release. It is working well.



I have more research to do on this, but I have seen it from several directions. The actual numbers of animals entering pounds has decreased by 80% in the last 15 years. I intend to put up a bibliography page, but have been too lazy.

It has taken a while to get most pets neutered, but that is the present thrust. I think that if really low cost licensing and neutering were available, more poor people would consider neutering.

Meanwhile, even if poor people let their animals breed, they are probably producing fine little mutts, very few of whom will end up in shelters.


Lisa C

Hi Kate, thanks for the additional information! Your column WAS about dogs, I just took a side jog, because I was thinking about the feral animals and only know the stats for cats.

I also forgot to say I really enjoy your sense of humor!
and I think your posting of pictures of local pound pups must be very helpful. They’re so precious!


Post Your Comment Here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * logo