Dogs Are Not People
By Guillermo Moreno
Dec. 12, 2021
A bumper sticker reads something along the lines of, “My kids have paws.” For clarity, I would ask, “Define kids,” and “Define paws.” Regardless, this bumper sticker refers to the notion that one’s pets, namely dogs and cats, are one’s own children. In all seriousness, this refers to the love and affection that people have toward their dogs and cats. What is disturbing is to compare a love for one’s own children to that of one’s pets.
A trend that I’ve noticed is that many people who use this kind of language, addressing their dogs or cats as their children, are couples who live together and don’t have kids. Cohabiting couples, specifically, want to live as if they are married, having their incomes, their space, their utilities, their furniture, and their “fur-babies.” As for their pets being compared to children, a friend of mine said that such couples want the kids without having the kids. It’s wanting the real thing, without having the real thing. In so far as this is becoming a cultural trend, this is settling for a counterfeit of what we’re really yearning for and what we were created for: a life-long marriage and a loving family.
Referring to animals as kids, however, is especially disconcerting because it's a new form of dehumanization, which, for our intents and purposes, is making human persons as less-than human. Not only are non-human animals being elevated closer to humans, but this consequently lessens human children to something less-than-human. The dehumanization of procreation implies contraceptives, which entailed the dehumanization of the fetus and acceptability of abortion. From this dehumanization of the fetus, it follows that the infant and next the child himself are dehumanized. Why else does it appear acceptable that liberal ethicists such as Peter Singer advocate for infanticide? Once the human person is dehumanized, our concept of personhood is itself obscured and we lose sight of the fundamental differences between person and animal, a fact rooted in the essences of the human person and of animality. This is why we easily see pets as persons and elevate them to the status of children.
What is the root of this paradigm? A simple answer is sin. But how so?
I can’t help but recollect the fact that animals have been worshipped throughout history, which has been revealed as sinful (e.g. the golden calf incident in the book of Exodus). Is there a reason why animals have been worshipped? I imagine that it’s a similar reason for why material objects including trees (such as the Oak of Thor) and stars (including our sun) have also been worshipped. Their similarities include an idolatry for creation, or created things. Furthermore, mythological deities have been attributed to many created things, and these deities are human-like, including having humanoid appearances and/or rationality. In this way, humans have been idolizing themselves as well.
This idolatry for creation is the paradigm that humans are susceptible to due to sin. In other words, sin causes us to have distorted attachments to creation. However, creation is meant to point us to the Creator (c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1147), the true end of the drive to worship; that drive must be redirected toward Him.
Is it a stretch to say that people who refer to their pets as their fur-babies are worshipping their pets? Yes, but my point is that this is a cultural phenomena that has twisted society’s view of the human person (and of animals). What’s the cause of this distortion?
Let’s consider the fact that pets are referred to as fur-babies. What is the allusion? Babies. Where do babies come from? Sex. What is sex? The loving union of a husband and wife from which the generation of human life is made possible. Now, who is it that refers to their pets as fur-babies? In our case, it’s couples who are living together, who are not necessarily married, and who have fur-babies; those who want marriage without marriage. Why else would they refer to their pets as their kids?
Before proceeding, two points. First, of course, there are single people who have dogs or cats and refer to them as their fur-babies. They are also the results of this cultural phenomena of the elevation of animals and the dehumanization of children. Secondly, isn’t it a stretch to say that couples who opt to have pets and who don’t have kids are replacing dogs and cats with children on purpose? Yes, but my point is this is the allusion. Animals are still being compared at some level with children. Conversely, children are viewed in comparison with animals. The one that seems less like a burden is subsequently preferred.
That is a sad state that our culture is in. But at least we’ve pin-pointed the root of the problem: our paradigm of sex, which is the origin of life. Referring to the above definition of sex, it describes the essence of the union that brings forth new human life. Judging by our cultural perspective, some factors that are deemed normal and/or acceptable in sexual activity do violate the essence of sex. That is the cultural perspective that needs to shift.
Shift where? To what direction? As mentioned above, creation is meant to point to the Creator, who also designed us and our sexuality. If society were to shift its paradigm to the way that the Creator designed our sexuality, it would see that the institution that has vocally and boldly advocated for God’s design is the Catholic Church. Hence, its proclamation of marriage as the indisoluble, lifelong union between a man and a woman that is open to life (c.f. Code of Canon Law, 1055-1057). Such a culture, a culture of life, would rightly see children as over and above animals, and families would bloom; it would also see pets as the valuable beings that God created for us to have stewardship over and care for (c.f. CCC 2415-2418), and not to idolize.
In conclusion, a critical question: are parents capable of idolizing their children? Yes, and paraphrasing what was mentioned above, sin distorts our desires. For clarity between authentic love and idolatry for anyone, a right relationship with God is vital. For this, we need to grow in our relationship with Christ and to put God first (c.f. Luke 12:22-34).
 Thanks to my cohort, Jeremy Hausotter, for this elaboration on why abortion has become legal and its connection to the dehumanization of procreation and children.
Seal Rock, California by Albert Bierstadt