Some thoughts on love as a primary reason for treating companion animals kindly.

As much as I appreciate the concept of ‘love’ as a shared experience for humans and their companion animals I get a bit nervous when love is pointed to as a reason to care for and support these other animals. The act of loving implies intention to love as well as a conscious awareness for the responsibility of loving another being; both states that nonhuman animals may not be capable of. Claiming that our companion animals (mostly notably dogs and cats) “love” us is, in my opinion, unhelpful at best and potentially detrimental to the psychological well being of these other animals at worst. I say this because we do not know whether or not these animals love us or experience those many and complicated emotions involved in loving another. For example, I love my dog, but I do not expect him to love me in the same way or even at all. I care for him because I believe he is inherently deserving of my respect and consideration, regardless of the way he feels about me.
Companion animals are already forced to live up to so many of our human demands, why must we insist on this notion of animals “loving us back?” Are we so human-centered that not only must we domesticate, genetically alter, and control companion animals, but also expect that they love us as much as we love them in order to rationalize providing care and a good quality of life for them? We should utilize common decency and those manners of treating and interacting with others that we have learned through philosophy, psychology, and all other subjects that consider what is ‘good and fair,’ rather than using love as a determinate for how we care for others.

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