DEAR DR. FOX: I wonder if you have changed your views about animal rights over the years? You once said that the life of an ant or a mouse and the life of your own child should be given equal consideration. That did seem extreme a few years ago, but is there more acceptance today? -- J.M., Washington, D.C.
DEAR J.M.: Back in the 1980s, I joined many voices from academia calling for the acknowledgement of animals' rights to equal and fair consideration and for their humane treatment and liberation from all forms of cruel exploitation. My critique of misapplied science and technology adding to the social ills of humanity put me in the same league of anti-science and anti-society environmental extremists in the eyes of at least one reporter writing for U.S. News and World Report, who linked me to Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber!
Now, 20 years later, I see the business world and aligned industries seeking to change their public image to appear more animal- and environment-friendly. This is ultimately enlightened self-interest: When we harm the Earth, we harm ourselves, and when we demean animals, we do no less to our own humanity. All lives matter.
I regard humans as animals, too; we all share a will to live and a telos -- intrinsic nature and purpose -- that we should respect and not thwart. Nor should we harm animals' ethos or spirit by not enabling them to develop, express, experience and satisfy their inherent natures and basic needs. This is a continuing ethical and welfare issue for caged and live-alone "pets"; caged animals in laboratories; chained and puppy-mill dogs; and especially factory-farmed animals. For more details, see my book "Animals and Nature First."
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a rescue hound who had to be crated when I went to work, or else she would destroy my house. Two days ago, I forgot to secure the side of the crate. When I pulled into the driveway, she met me inside the backyard -- I have a pet door and fenced-in backyard. When I walked inside the house, nothing had been touched! I praised her immensely. The next day, I purposely left the door unlocked to the crate again, to the same results -- no damage in the house! Hopefully, I'm onto a lasting cure. -- L.B., Glen Carbon, Illinois
DEAR L.B.: I hope your experience will help others with dogs like yours who are destructive when left alone to give them a chance to be free from the cage or crate -- at least on a trial basis. Having access to the outdoors is not essential. The main issue is feeling secure; the crate or cage, left open, serves as a "den," which can contain hidden treats and toys. Be sure to hide a few treats in the open room where the dog is allowed, and leave on a TV or radio to help the dog feel less alone and to act as a sound barrier to external noises.
It is advisable to reward the dog with a walk or outside play activity when you come home. If anything has been chewed that shouldn't have, blame yourself for leaving the item within reach of the dog, and do not reprimand, since that will only serve to increase the dog's anxiety -- ditto for accidental house-soiling, which can be an issue when the dog is left inside for several hours. Have a dog-walker come over and take the dog out to evacuate and have a break. People should not have a dog if it means keeping the poor animal caged all day.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)