Are We Obsessed with Our Pets?

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Is it possible to love your dog or cat too much?

dogsuit1.jpgA colleague called to my attention a provocative article in World Magazine regarding Americans’ devotion to their pets. The author of the piece told of a veterinarian who likes to ask people if, given the choice between saving the life of a stranger in a burning building or their beloved pet, which one would they save?

“You’d be surprised,” he said, “how many would save their pet.”

Dogs and cats are increasingly becoming more and more part of the family. Take note of how many photos in the Christmas cards you receive this year contain the mug of the family dog, sometimes even wearing a Santa hat or a red bow tie. Here in Colorado, people seem to take their dog with them wherever they go. I’m always encountering dogs on my Saturday morning trips inside the home improvement store.

Naturally, there’s an economic impact to it all. According to the American Pet Products Association consumers will spend nearly $53 billion on their pets this year – up from $17 billion in 1994.

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Do those statistics shock or surprise you?

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for dogs. We didn’t have any money when I was a kid, but we liked to pretend and so we bestowed upon our mutts a touch of royalty. There was Sir George and Duke, both fine dogs, but, well, they were seen as dogs and treated accordingly.

We’ve all seen cases where people have clearly gone overboard. Maybe you’ve read about the New York woman who spent $50,000 to clone her dog. Or perhaps you’ve followed the efforts to have pet owners reclassified as “guardians.” Last year the San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission was reportedly considering even banning the sale of goldfish claiming it leads to “inhumane suffering.”

Those may all be over the top, but let me ask you, where do you draw the line when it comes to your pets? Would you go into debt to prolong the life of your dog? Do you spend more on Fifi or Fido each year than on, say, charitable giving? Do you invest more attention in your pets than your neighbor?

Someone once said that a pet’s eyes have the power to speak a great language, and having enjoyed the company of a faithful dog, I appreciate such sentiment. Dogs, cats and other critters can bring an enormous amount of happiness. There is no place for the mistreatment of animals. But in our affinity for pets, have some of us gone too far?

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Anonymous 7 days ago
right on score more 4TRUTH under your ROOF!!!
Ruthie Andrews More than 1 year ago

I am one of those persons who is obsessed with my dog.  I have no biological children and do consider my dog to be my child.  Her welfare and happiness is my top priority.  Having said this, I spend all of my working hours, in 2 jobs, helping other people.  I am a clinical therapist and deal with traumatized, anxious and depressed persons continually.  My dog provides me an outlet aside from the craziness I see in my professional life, and I am fine with that.  It just isn't true that because my dog lives the life of a pampered queen that I ignore my duty to help other people. My clients get 50 hrs. a week of my undivided attention.  I'm fine with my dog getting the rest.

Anonymous 7 days ago
Yea people are crazy but your dog is that PERFECT relief!!! You are a worshipper of animal life and a mistreater of us CRAZY PEOPLE created in the image of God with a ETERNAL SOUL. But rest assured I see it everyday four and five dogs or cats sleeping with their mommies and daddies, as though they are real babies and children---THEY ARE PETS,ANIMALS. Stop this nonsence which can border on "beastiality very sorry" but you need to know the place of God's order of where animals are to reside UNDER,Human beings--not REIGNING OVER their masters, I've seen to much of it and it is vomittng sickening and very SINFUL!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Here's a good article.  It explains how animals are NOT equals.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't care for them, enjoy there company, etc. but they should never come before human life.    www.gobible.org/.../701.php

Robert More than 1 year ago

Thank You Mr. Daly for one of the most engaging shows I've heard called, On Being, The Next Christians.  It was the most engaging show I've heard, on the topics you covered, in years.  Thank You Jim Daly, Gabe Lyons, and Krista Tippett.

Kris More than 1 year ago

A world vision child is not a pet and from what you're describing it sounds like the cat has a UTI and may need antibotics

John and Cindy More than 1 year ago

You are so right Brother!!  Preach on.  Just think what 53 billion could do to get clean water to dying children in the world!!!  And that's just 1 year's amount.

Anne More than 1 year ago

Donna God bless you! You have a wonderful heart!

Anne More than 1 year ago

Amen Alan! My thoughts exactly!

Cara More than 1 year ago

As a Christian and a veterinarian, I was very interested in this article. Although, I have dedicated my life to help animals, I still see them as animals, not an equal basis when compared to a human life. I do believe that one should be a good steward and provide the necessary care to his animals, if he choses to own them. This does require a financial investment. To me, a pet is a luxury item. It is a blessing to be able to own a pet.However, I guess I am at odds with the current society's views on animal welfare. I do believe it is appropriate to euthanize unwanted pets. My husband and I raise beef cattle, and yes, we EAT them. It seems like our society has lost common sense concerning animal husbandry. Personally, I will not financially support  PETA or the Humane Society. Their political agenda flies in the face of my values and scientific education. A lot of  legislative issues, horse slaughter, for example, are based on heated emotional preferences rather than scientific fact or common sense. A lot people that propose and make these laws are far removed from agriculture and do not work on a professional basis with animals. Interestingly, a great percentage of veterinarians, professional horsemen, and breeders, favor horse slaugher. They understand and see the need.

jim More than 1 year ago

If I could deal with pet owners, who treat their pets like humans, I would think very seriously about starting some kind of business with pet food supplies. It's unbelievable what some people spend on their animals.

sambrea More than 1 year ago

Kathleen and everyone else who is now getting upset about this article,I ask you to please go back up to the top of the article and read it! The vet said "You will be surprised as to how many people would save their pet rather than a stranger in a burning building."  This is what prompted Jim Daly to blog this.  Please all of you just stick to that one point! No one was telling us we can't love our animals.  No one was telling you what money to spend or not spend on them.  That is our choice and one will pay the consequence if it is unbalanced.  The point was, "Whose life would you save?  That of a human being or that of an animal?? That's it! You know what the right and correct answer is!!! Come on guys!!! The saving of a life is not only in an emergency situation you know.  Every day of our lives we have the opportunity to save a life by planting seeds in their lives.  Are we doing that for humans was the question?  The woman the article mentioned that spent $50,000 to clone her dog?? You won't admit that is insane? The Lord has blessed each of us with different resources with which we can help one another.  The question was, do we do it? Or do we spend all our resources on animals and forget human beings in need? And I want to say to the one woman who said "God blessed me with a heart for animals." Well, sister, He might have, but I can assure you that He didn't neglect to bless you with a heart for your fellow man.  So, please those of you getting defensive, it is because perhaps you know in your heart that maybe you are not doing "too much" for your animals...but you are doing "too little" for the souls around you. That is the point!!!

Anonymous 7 days ago
right on score more4TRUTH under your ROOF!!!
Kathleen More than 1 year ago

I find it strange and disturbing how many people think there ought to a limit as to how much love pets deserve.  Look at all the comments here on "I love animals, BUT..."And why does Jim Daly feel the need to set up some sort of equation where the more you love a pet, the less love you'll have for others -- love is not a zero-sum game and it's odd that Daly only does this with pets.  Why doesn't he ask if people give more attention to their church or their sports team over their neighbor?

Anonymous 7 days ago
Honey cause it is apparent scores and multitudes of folks KNOW the worship of Churches people love to load With HUGE $UM$ of Money to these Monstron'so'ness Mega greed places (cause they are not going to get the TRUTH on nothing but GIVING to the Wrong kind of living"...SPORTS-it is the TRILLONAIRE reality that bemoans idol of it all, that fails HELPING NONE BUT THESE ONES,sorry I'm really not yelling. I just believe this can stop and we as human beings can look in the mirror where conscience live and do better to dying needy humanity!!!
Donna More than 1 year ago

Amen James B!

Donna More than 1 year ago

I don't understand why such a question is even being asked. Pick any topic and there will be extremes on both ends. Hopefully, we will never have to choose between a stranger's life and our pet's, and hopefully if we do, we will make the correct choice no matter how painful.  I do think this topic is a dangerous one, and could possibly make those of us who love our pets dearly, feel quilty for doing so. And that would be a terrible shame and mistake.  I know this quilt well, feeling quilty for "fostering" dogs who would otherwise be put to sleep, through no fault of their own, but rather the fault of their irresponsible owners. Feeling guilt for setting up Feral Cat Sanctuaries, for cats released to fend for themselves by again irresponsible owners. Not to mention the horrific acts of animal cruelty and neglect. It does make one want to dislike much less "love" our neighbor. And yet that is exactly what we are called to do...Love our neighbor and if we love our Lord and King, we do just that, even when they do things that pain us. I have heart for animals...a GOD given heart for animals and I refuse to feel guilty because of this amazing gift. Instead I will continue to fight the good fight for these beloved animals, with truth and LOVE.

Anonymous 7 days ago
The issue is NOT loving animals and them sweet lil poochies that are called man's best friend and those who are dedicated pet loving OVERBOARD. NOT GOD'S WILL DEAR to place ANY ANIMAL over the health and welfare of starving and the murdering of children in the most dire and impoverished "PLEAD OF NEED"!!!Where it is clearly your passion is not among multitudes of others committing last day Apostacy sin. It is nothing wrong with you helping animals in crisis when you can. Just do not be blind to the greater compassion OF HUMAN BEINGS IN NEED, Look around and place your passion where GOD will show you His Heart and His ORDER --being you did mention HIM. It does matter what we do on earth with what we have been given to work with what AND what we do not do that we could & should. God Bless you...You appear sincere,love,joy and peace to you.Maybe it isa privilege to own a pet and even serious responsibity...but really these people are way out wanting a birthday and Christmas card sent to their dog and appointing God mother's and God father's, aunt's, uncle's to their DOGS AND CATS..I REFUSE to accept this mental disorder behaviour anywhere near normal. What is a shame is how life got this way where people take more solace in dogs and cats than they do n GOD and good hearted people who got it together and all their marbles upstairs :(
James B. More than 1 year ago

Wait a minute!  Pets ARE NOT material items like swimming pools, cars, clothes, et.al.  Pets are created by God just as we are  It might seem odd to some people that we spend so much time, money, miles, care, and --sometimes--tears on our dogs.  But that's what we've chosen to do with this part of our lives.  If it seems depraved or wasteful to you, there's not much we can do to change your mind.  But we love each and every one of them.  They all have purposes in their lives, and we have chosen to help them achieve what they can...whether it's a therapy dog, obedience dog, show dog, or just...plainly and simply...a dog.  I don't think God, in his infinite wisdom, will question us as to why we had the dogs when it's our turn to enter heaven.  What he will focus on is the treatment we gave all of our dogs:  care, love, dignity, and the concern that we all deserve.

Laura More than 1 year ago

As a veterinarian, I can tell you that some of our culture's current view of pets has come from marketing efforts by small animal veterinarians: If we can encourage people to view their pets as family members, then they'll be more willing to allow us to provide a very high standard of medical care for their pets (which costs a lot of money).  Also, some of the current view of pets comes from a nonbiblical worldview (think evolution specifically) that says that animals are of equal value to human beings.  I think a good biblical worldview is to understand that while pets are a good gift from the Lord (all good gifts are from Him!) and we humans have a responsibility to be good stewards of our pets (caring for & providing for them), animals are not equal to human beings, because only humans are made in the image of God.

Anonymous 7 days ago
Amen well said which took me lectures to say ....lol you said under 20 sentences good job!!!
sambrea More than 1 year ago

I was really very sad to see someone say they would save a pet rather than a stranger! But, I would almost bet this poor person has been very hurt by the humans around her.  Perhaps she feels neglected by them.  It always amazes me though, when I hear someone say "Animals never judge you.  Animals don't tell you what to do."  This does NOT make them better!!! They have no soul that Satan is trying to destroy! The only reason they don't do those things is because God did not give them the same kind of incredible mysterious complex brain function as we have.  If He did, TRUST ME, they would do the same thing!! We are all fallen. It is absolutely a sin to say you would save an animal's life and NOT save a human being's life if given the honorable opportunity. Yes, if you get a pet, the Lord expects for you to take good care of them.  You are to take good care of everything He has given to you.  Has anybody even bothered to hear the latest news on the family that "did" risk their lives for their pet just recently??? A family is out at the beach with their dog.  The dog gets carried away by waves..so the father and mother and son go risk their lives to save him.  They drown!!! The dog ends up saving himself.  Now, there is a daughter left ALL BY HERSELF!!! NO MOTHER, NO FATHER, NO BROTHER.  JUST LIKE THAT!!! This is NOT right.  I would not risk my life for my dog, and I love him very much. I also have two cats and a bird.  But, my three kids and my husband need me!  I no longer have my mom and dad anymore.  It is very, very difficult not having in them in my life.  I would NOT want to cause that same pain to my children....all for an animal!!! It's not what God would want! Our dog, he is part of this family, but he has his place.....bottom of the line.  By that I mean, he is NOT allowed to beg for food.  He is NOT allowed to eat anything unless I give him the command. (you animal lovers think this is probably harsh.) NO IT"S NOT. Think about it...an untrained dog gets into trouble and reaks havoc in a home. It could eat somethng that is very, very harmful to them and may not survive if they digest that harmful object or food. It only takes one time.  Our cats have NEVER set food on our countertops.  Why on earth do people allow filthy paws on the space they will feed themselves and their family?? I will never understand that. People who don't train their pets do not do it out of love.....they fail to do so out of either laziness or co-dependency. Well, love your pet.....but love your God first and live like He says to live....everything else will fall right into place and you get to enjoy the wonderful companions He blessed us with in a way that gives you a healthy well being!!

Anonymous 7 days ago
WOW you said it all sad for that family following folly with these demented mind-set out of the order where pets are to have their place! And TRAINED A MUST! So dirty them cats all on the counters in every food dish and Mommie and cat daddy think their babies are soooo adorable cute. And dog sitting for my neighbors spoiled beyond imagination dog---he begs for food like he starving, jumps up to the table tries to tackle getting in hot stove til I have to YELL command him "get back" 2 years old and she refuses to train him in anything whatsoever. He is very territorial of bed and growls when you are changing sheets. And I have diserned his lady spirit over this dog--SHE IS IN LOVE WITH HIM! And whoever needed saving over him WOULD BE A GONER. Sometime i get scared to watch him if something were to happen to him an accident of some sort, I really feel she would hate me forever and for that reason (I'M OUT)
Doug L. More than 1 year ago

You have your dogs in bed. Have you ever questioned WHY your husband sleeps elsewhere? Therre might be a relationship there. I love my wife, but if the day ever comes that she tries to bring her  dog into our bed, it is over.

Anonymous 7 days ago
I hear you Doug "A REAL MAN TAKING A STAND" not like these other hen-picked hams :((( Honestly sick people PLEEEEASE GET YOUR HUMAN LIFE BACK. You owe YOURSELF!!! Or get some professional help. This is a good panel of blog great statements tools of help. Be wise to LISTEN, Don't be meanspirited & angered.LISTEN JUST LISTEN. Men want their wives back and they deserve them!!! THEY EXCHANGED VOWS WITH YOU---Not no pet animal. Hear God Speak and SUBMIT to HIS voice!!!
Bonnie More than 1 year ago

Animals need more love and compassion, not less.  In no way, does this diminish our love for our family members and friends.  As Christians, we understand that we humans are far more valuable in God's sight, but He does love and care for animals.  We are responsible for taking care of them.  In these tough economic times, the shelters are full and many pets are simply abandoned.  If you see a stray dog or cat, please check to see if there's a collar or tag and contact the owner; otherwise take it to the Humane Society or other animal shelter.  All three of my pets had been abandoned and were desperately trying to survive.  I'm so glad that God brought them into my life and that I was able to rescue them!

Doug L. More than 1 year ago

You question how many would save their pet instead of a stranger? How about how many would save their pet before the spouse or child?! I think it is a lot.

Anonymous 7 days ago
wow deep and very lost sad :(((
Robert More than 1 year ago

I have a calico cat that's been with me 15 yrs.. Recently she got away, even though she's an indoor cat.  Someone brought me some thanksgiving dinner and I guess that's when she got away.  A day later I noticed she was gone so I put up some flyers around are area with an outline of a cat at top.  Very vague outline.  Well I came home from a Saturday night service and there she was in fromt of my door underneath a car and in good health.

The next day a young teenage girl called me and said she thought she saw a cat that looked like the one on the poster.  I chuckled to myself and thought "how cute", the outline on the poster was so low in definition you couldn't possibly identify it.  I did say on the flyer it was a calico that was missing but the point is is that she was concerned and wanted to help me find my cat.

Animals (not insects) have souls.  They have emotions and yearnings, feelings and someway of being able to use their minds to think in some fashion although we don't know how.  Nephish is the Bible definition of the souls that animals have as well as people.  In my understanding from the Bible they do not have immaterial spirits like we do.  But I am concerned about cruelty to animals and the horrible things they go through when mistreated.  I listened to a phone broadcast for 1/2 hr. a while back from the president of the Humane Society of the United States, who had the low down on all the abuses animals go through each day: Puppy Mills, Corporate animal abuse with awful conditions and crowding of so many animals in very small places.  I really think this would have been a better aproach to an article than over concern for our pets. I am one who is not overly concerned and sometimes that bothers me some.  But if my cat gets away, I'll make an effort to find her.  As far as comparing your love for your animal against the helping of another human being, that's just dumb.  Any person I've ever know would certainly put the life of another human above a pet.  But, they do it as a moral choice.  Someone might feel closer and warmer to their pet than a stranger in danger, but nobody I've ever known would put the life of an animal above a human being.  This is a strangely focused article that should have focused on animal cruelty than giving over attention to our pets.  Most people don't. A few might, and do.  Let's get this family thing in order:  Family and people are certainly the priority but to waste time on an article that compares  how much you spend on your pets as to how much you give to charity is not your concern, even though I agree we should support Christian Charities first.  Don't guilt trip anyone with this kind of stuff.  It's not up to you or anyone to determine what someone gives to his church or charity.  It's not their business.  Remember: Not reluctantly or under compulsion.  I could add guilt trips. coersion, false understanding of the New Covenant and the Tithe etc..  Focus on helping animals that are being mistreated not on these comparisons.

Anonymous 7 days ago
Then why not give the same advertising in all due respect to children whose monetary welfare is far over the meals children receive over 50 $omething billion for dogs and cats! What rats mentality!! With that kind of monies a child could be fed throw in some cement brick housing w/necessary furnishing for a good home cooked hot meal not a bowl of slush mush AND Clean drinking water. The Truth stare us in our face and those who hold treasuries keys & strings let whole families DIE, while they beg, plead and appeal for cruelty to ANIMALS cause. This is the reality sir of the heartless, godless world we live in. And btw sir if every pet owner put just one dollar aside every time they run to the Pet markets buying all kinds of delicacies treats REGIONS of impoverished peoples could put weight on from the worst malnutrition that is a dogged dirty low down SHAME for the progression of the world in the 21st Century....good day
Melodie A More than 1 year ago

I have pets and though I would not put them before a child that needs help, I believe that having pets teach me children about unconditional love, responsibility and commitment. I know that having pets is benificial to your health. I would save my family before my pets and I hope I never have to choose between my pet or a person. And yes, I spend more on them then on charities, but it is is not even 5 percent of our income. And I am committed to babies right to live and am appalled  and ashamed by the way this country treats it helpless. I put life first.

Kri More than 1 year ago

I LOVE this topic, and believe it or not have actually thought about it alot in the past few years.

Let me start by saying I am a believer and Christ follower.  I'm also an animal lover. I have a small rescue dog named Enzo.  He is a piece of work.  There is much time given to him to create an environment in which he feels safe and secure.  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably not have him.   Some of the time I could be using to serve others is used in serving my pet.   Don't get me wrong.  I serve in my local church and attend a weeknight bible study one night a week.  But that's about it.  If I go out with friends, or have other long weekend activities, Enzo goes with me or to Grandama's house.

We live in a society that puts animals up as idols because people want to feel good about themselves.  I sometimes wonder if many of the people who work in the animal rescue would also be willing to stand up for the rights unborn children.  Somehow I think not.

It's an interesting world we live in.  Pet idolatry is HUGE right now.  I live in a very large metropolitan area that has many pet resce organizations struggling to stay afloat and asking for help.  I give about once a year to the organization that I adopted Enzo from.  My first committment is to the body of Christ.  If only we as a people would be so committed to the rights of unborn humans.

Great topic!

Anonymous 7 days ago
It definitely is a topic that NEEDS addressing, but people kill me with their right to unborn life---while they care nothing for already life that move, live and have their being on the earth NOW that is being killed simply because God woke them up to live, but somebody's gun, temper and hatred decided they need to die. I just cry and hurt and ache inside (How Wrong Things Are) weep, weep,sigh!sigh!
Clint A S. More than 1 year ago

An old time rancher in my area ( who is a born again Christian) that I've known for a long time made a comment a few years ago at our local 4th of July Parade that he was quite shocked at how in the last few years people are worshipping the creation and not the Creator.   This elevated level of adoration and attachment goes beyond dogs and cats even in a ranch community.  Have you needled a horse person lately over a horse that should have been put down years ago?   Or have you done the research on these worshipped  "Mustangs"  out here and find out that they are mostly ferral beasts that were turned out years ago on public land because folks did not want to fool with them any longer or feed them.  That debate and arguement will last longer and inspire more emotion than our most recent election results.

Viv More than 1 year ago

God clearly gave mankind dominion over the animals on His Kingdom. And I agree that human life is more important than the well being of an animal. However, I do not agree with judging people on how they choose to spend their money. We have no idea how individuals may need to handle their own personal emotions or stress, whether it be $5000 on a vacation or $5000 spent on their pets. I also do not find it beneficial to sit around musing on how one may react in a stressful life threatening situation such as a fire.

Anonymous 7 days ago
Yea cause YOU are THEY "oh $5000 or $50,000 on my precious dog collar that surely needs that---surely there comes a time where we MUST be willing to steer people in a right direction whether they like it or not and even at the most costly expense of judging them as of some book of jude---snatching them from the very real volcanoe. It is a price that is paid being a Christian that price is 'STANDING FOR WHAT IS RIGHTEOUS' Yea truth when heeded to actually HELPS from delusional paths of ruffling no one's feathers (JESUS) was nobody's spineless, no backbone jelly fish...and that thing about doing what is right and speaking The Father's TRUTH got HIM killed. Same crowd today just different generation "THE LAST I MIGHT ADD".Cause Jesus is not going to sit idly on His Throne forever and watch dogs and cats have whopping fortunes spent on them and jump in their nasty master's bed comfortable, while anguished mother's cradle their lamenting children to death because of evil sin of starvation. You do not have to post this statement. Believe me God hears and sees ALL. The day is coming for we the people to meet ALMIGHTY JEHOVAH!!!