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Friday, July 1, 2011

Are Pets Sustainable?

Which came first? The chicken or the dog?
Yesterday I read about how San Francisco is proposing a ban on the sale of pets, and while I may be losing some fans by saying this, I don't entirely disagree with it. I can't say I've ever visited any pet store where I didn't feel sorry for the animals being kept there. I have also known people who have bought a pet on impulse, became bored with the animal, and then forgot about the poor thing. In fact, I know someone who just did this recently. Banning the sale of pets in pet stores isn't really going to set anyone back except the pet store owners, but I am sure they are making plenty of cash on pet food and accessories. If you really want a pet that badly, then you will adopt from a shelter or do the homework required to find a decent, humane, and reliable breeder who is not in it for a quick profit (are you going to tell me that pet stores sell pets for any other reason?)

So, this article sparked another thought. There must be a lot of pets being purchased on a whim, then being given up to a shelter, and euthanized. That can't be sustainable? That sounds like an expensive burden on tax payers!? I began to wonder if pets really are unsustainable, especially after reading No Impact Man. I wondered how Mr. Beaven & Co. could be so radical about a few things (like not using plastic bags,) but still keep a dog in the city who obviously had to poop on occasion, most likely on some sidewalk where people walk, and which would have to be cleaned up and collected. Generally people use plastic bags for this task, but the No Impact dude didn't exactly specify how he dealt with it.

I came across the real poop on dogs, and I must say that even if the guy seems like a Grinch when it comes to pets, he has a point. Dog poop is gross. Last summer while doing lawn patrol, I had a similar thought myself. I also began to think how goats would make more sensible backyard pets, especially if we had Pygoras (a Pygmy/ Angora cross) for fiber. Unlike dog poop, goat poop is valuable to the organic farmer and is completely recyclable. Goats are also excellent non-gas, non-electric weedeaters. If we consumed dairy, that might be another benefit. It seems like we put a whole lot of money and feed into our dogs just to get a bunch of poop that we can't do anything with. My dogs have useless fur and none of them produce milk (and even if I did drink milk, there's something especially unappealing about the thought of drinking dog milk.) Of course, I can't deny that they don't give us a lot of love and affection. What about cats? Well, this article covers all the cat statistics. It also has a list of the defining qualities of a sustainable pet, and includes a hilarious video short that you just have to see (James, I thought I'd include that for you since you appreciate British humor.)

I haven't bought a pet from a pet store since I was a kid (but I did order my chickens from My Pet Chicken.) All of my animals, aside from the chickens, have been adopted or have been strays that I felt sorry for (written across my forehead: sucker) and took in. I could always try and justify my unsustainable pets by pointing out the fact that I haven't given birth by choice (the two young ones belong to Lee,) and therefore I figure that I'm making a fairly decent tradeoff. Is there anything more unsustainable than a human being? Think of how much junk has to be produced for babies and kids... all the clothing, toys, diapers, and nonsensical gimmicky thinks like Diaper Genies that you are made to believe that you must absolutely have. None of my animals have used diapers, therefore I've prevented 8,000 packages of plastic-wrapped poop from ending up in the landfill per child I did not have! If owning a dog is like driving an SUV... then having a kid must be like flying in a jet! I do enjoy having my pets around, which makes it hard to think about the impact the production of their food has on the environment, but it isn't something I am ignoring either. I will probably consider replacing my dogs with goats when they pass on. In the meantime though, I will try and green them up as much as possible.

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