Jackie Caldwell

In November of 2015, Rema Rainsford-Hunt was mauled by three pit bulls that she was taking care of for a friend. Recently, Rainsford-Hunt announced that she is launching an education effort that will teach people how to properly select and train dogs.

It’s great that Rainsford-Hunt is trying to help others so that what happened to her doesn’t happen to anyone else, but some people have expressed concern that if too many stipulations are placed on the adoption process through her program, it may decrease the number of dogs who find homes. While many people may see this as an acceptable sacrifice in that it may prevent humans from being injured by aggressive dogs, many dogs that are not adopted are euthanized. It’s important to look out for other human beings, but we should strive to ensure the well-being of other creatures too.

Humans have bred dogs to be ideal human companions, but this has come at a cost. Most dogs are incapable of living without humans. There’s a reason you don’t hear about wild Chihuahuas or a forest being overrun by pit bulls. Because humans have made it so most dogs are incapable of surviving on their own, we have a responsibility to take care of them even the dogs who seem aggressive or ill-tempered.

It’s true that some owners are better-suited to taking care of certain dogs than other people are, and it may be important to inform an owner about a dog’s temperament for that reason, but we all have a responsibility to try to help dogs simply because they are living creatures, and they are largely dependent on us.  

Most people see cats and dogs as creatures that exist mainly to provide us with joy and companionship. While most of us do have positive mutual relationship with our pets in that we feed and play with them, we do not see ourselves as existing to please them. We often hold the view that pets exist to please us. This is an unhealthy mentality in that it teaches us to view the lives of other living creatures as having less value than our own. While such a mindset may seem harmless when it’s directed towards animals, if it is not unchecked, it may serve as justification for mistreating other humans.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized. Why is it that the lives of these animals (which include 670,000 dogs) have so little importance to us? Is it because they are less intelligent than we are? Because they don’t look like us? Because they are incapable of speaking out in their defense?

Saying it’s simply because they aren’t human isn’t a good enough reason for me. It is important to work at establishing more dog training faculties, something that Rainsford-Hunt seems to be trying to do, but we should also try to ensure that dogs who cannot find homes are taken care of in some other way, increasing our efforts to make sure that all dogs are given the opportunity to live happy lives alongside human beings.