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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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 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!!!

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?

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.

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.

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!!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Aviana More than 1 year ago

Things used to be different years ago.  People stayed in the same town so you knew your neighbors and helped each other.  Parents went to live with children when they became to old to live alone.  We have substitured pets for community.  As much as I love my dogs, I'd love to live in a community again.