Pet ownership not to be taken lightly

I saw the cutest bunny at the pet store yesterday.  I almost bought her, but had reservations, so I decided to go home and do some research first.  I searched for details on whether affectionate bunnies stay that way, or do they become less so as they get older.  As a result of that search, I found an interesting blog entry on why rabbits are bad pets.  This man wrote about how he went to great lengths to provide a good life for his rabbits, but of course, animals are always more work than you expect.  His blog was an honest reality check that many rabbits aren’t as snuggly and loving as we envision in our heads when we are holding adorable bunnies.

The blogger added a later addendum, noting that he had received many hateful emails from people saying he wasn’t a good owner.  I thought it was obvious he was a better owner than most—he was aware that the rabbits needed large cages, fresh alfalfa, and time outdoors, even in cold weather.  His honest assessment of the effort spent on the rabbits reminded me that there are almost always unexpected challenges and expenses involved in pet ownership.  If more people were aware of that, perhaps there would be fewer impulsive purchases of animals, and fewer would be abandoned.  I think he did rabbits a great service by discouraging their ownership.  Only people who are fully aware of the commitment involved should buy rabbits, just as only people who are fully prepared to become parents should (ideally) have babies.  That’s just responsible, ethical behavior.  Of course, ill-prepared people have the right to own animals and have babies.  But society pays a price….dealing with feral animals, overcrowding at animal shelters, euthanized animals, children living in poverty, child abuse, malnourished children, and children who struggle in school and may elect to drop out.  Hooray for individual liberty.  You have the right to help make a mess of things by avoiding responsibility for the welfare of another life, until it crosses the line of abuse.

There are also apparently lots of people who don’t feel the need to take responsibility for the consequences of hurtful verbal and written exchanges.  The rabbit blogger wasn’t saying that no one should be allowed to own rabbits.  He was simply saying that providing for rabbits is a lot of work and may not be very rewarding.  That’s not profound or offensive.  It’s reality.  It is extremely troubling that so many people found it so easy to anonymously email him with allegations, name-calling, and judgments.  As he pointed out, they didn’t know all the facts, but felt compelled or justified in slinging arrows with their negative opinions.

I experienced this myself recently, when someone commented on one of my posts that I am full of sh*t.  Gee…that will convince me to change my mind.  If that person had emailed me with a rational, logical counter-argument to my points, I would have considered that and we could have had a productive discussion.  Instead, he insulted me and I didn’t respond.  Neither side understands the other any better as a result, and we just further defend our own positions and feel indignant at the ignorance of the other.

More troubling are when these accusations can nearly ruin lives.  Suspected jurors in the Casey Anthony case are receiving horrible emails and even death threats, even if they weren’t actually jurors.  People believe what they read on the internet, and send nasty emails to people without checking the facts.  And again, they weren’t in the jury box, so they don’t know why the jury acquitted her.  But they did.  I have to believe in our justice system, and the goodness of people, and the basic premise of innocent until proven guilty.  I believe that the jurors did the best they could, and made the decision they felt they could live with.  Thank goodness they didn’t convict her out of fear that the public would attack them if they acquitted her.  Can you imagine what our legal system would look like then?

Unfortunately, the local newspaper recently ran an article about a horribly abused kitten, and quoted a woman who accused another woman and her children of doing the deed.  The accused woman immediately began receiving threatening calls and emails.  She says she didn’t do it and that the accuser had an ax to grind with her.  She says her life has become a nightmare because she now lives in fear of people yelling at her and perhaps trying to hurt her family.  The accuser has an awful lot of power in this situation.  It shows that if you’re mad at someone, and you can make an accusation against them in the media, people will jump on board and are more than willing to become an angry lynch mob.

It’s 2011.  Aren’t we more civilized than that?

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