A Job to Do

The laws of New York City permit renters to have guide dogs or service dogs despite no-pet clauses in their leases. And New York City renters with chronic mental illnesses may have emotional assistance animals. (NY Civil Rights Law § 47-b.)

What does this say about our failure to find ways, even in the densest of human communities, to look after each other?

And what does it say about our regard for animals we claim to breed as “a member of the family”?

Ellie Moffat of the Vegan Justice League says:

I have told another vegan, about dogs used as K-9 or seeing-eye dogs, that I think it’s wrong. He said that a dog is happiest who has a job to do. But it must be awful for dogs who sit around all day inside the house in the suburbs waiting for their owner to get home.

Step back and regard the pattern here. We human beings have every sort of justification for breeding domestic animals onto this planet in ever greater numbers. Animals not just to eat, but also to herd the animals we eat, or clear our lawns of geese, or guard us, or amuse us, or lend us emotional assistance. These animals who perform “assistance” roles for us embody the hijacked genetic lineage of the free-living animal communities. The cats and the wolves who once walked over deserts and tundras on their terms.

We’d never personally hunt wolves or undomesticated cats. Shall we, though, agree to the trapping of their wild hearts, trophy-like, into living beings whose purpose is to amuse, guard, or console us?

Ellie continues:

I feel like a service pet has a sad life. I’ve seen service dogs with signs on them that say Do not pet me or Ignore me. I’ve also seen service dogs whose owners couldn’t possibly ever play with them. I live by the Family Court building. When I walk by the K-9 unit cop car, the dog in there is always alone in the parked car viciously barking. Happy dogs don’t act like that.

They don’t.

To the deeper point, animals were not put on this planet to come to our physical or emotional rescue—whether we classify it as crime prevention, services for disabilities, or a broader, often more “happy” companionship role that pets typically serve.

Veganism is offended by support for the concept of service pets. This is clear, given the vegan principle’s opposition to human dominion, of which domestication of the wolves and the forest cats are harrowing examples.

If we’re asked what we think of dogs who perform any specific services, vegans need to offer cogent answers.

And we probably need to think a lot more thinking about how we ourselves can create safety, companionship, and emotional assistance in our human communities.


Banner image: Gabriel Forsberg via Unsplash.