The following essay was written for the EntirelyPets scholarship program (Fall 2014) by Sara Sparks, answering the question "Should pets have the same rights as people?" The essay won 3rd place in competition and Sara was awarded a $500 scholarship. Sara is studying Occupational Therapy at Texas Woman's University.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” This quote by James Herriot perfectly frames the argument against people who say, “animals are just animals” or that “animals don’t have souls”. But if you have ever looked into the eyes of an animal, you may have felt what I have felt, and that is the warmth, innocence, and pure love they have for humans, and their fellow creatures.
Perhaps people feel as though an animal’s lack of opposable thumbs, or inability to speak means that they might be a less important creature on this earth, but I couldn’t disagree more. We are all animals on this planet, we all have different roles, different abilities, and there is no reason that one animal should have precedence over another in regards to their rights to live protected lives.
We have often seen on the news what horrible things people do to animals, and there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing an innocent creature that wants nothing more than to love and be loved by the person they are with, be betrayed, thrown away, or hurt by that very same person.
I would like to tell the story of a puppy named Justice who simply did not receive the Justice he deserved because he was a dog. I live in the Dallas, Texas area and in 2012 a shocking story broke regarding a puppy named Justice. Justice was attacked at an apartment complex in Dallas by several men who doused him in lighter fluid and set him on fire, just because they could, and at the time, they thought it was fun. With over 70% of his body burned, Justice was found at the apartment complex and was brought into a local veterinary office. Unfortunately his injuries were too much for his little body to handle, and he passed away a few days later.
The men who committed this crime were eventually caught and plead guilty to charges of animal cruelty. These men were initially set to serve five years for this brutal murder of a helpless puppy, but the judge then decided that prosecutors did not prove that Justice was killed with a deadly weapon, and so the killer’s sentences were unjustly lowered to two years.
Many in the Dallas area, including myself, were outraged that Justice did not receive the justice he deserved after being brutally killed by men who he could not defend himself against. What is most upsetting is that crimes like this happen on a daily basis to animals that trust us, who want to love us and be a companion to us. It truly is a shame that these animals are not allowed the same rights as humans, despite the fact that they too are emotional, caring, feeling animals just like us.
I often wonder why it is that pets do not have the same unalienable rights that we have. Why it is that animals are not granted the rights of life, liberty, and the opportunity for happiness. Are these rights granted solely to humans, simply because we are humans? What is the reason that any creature with the capability to think, to feel pain, to feel gratitude, and to love should not also be granted these rights? There is no arguable harm that can come from increasing the jail sentence of a person who abuses an animal. There is no reason that a person should feel as though they can get away with brutally murdering an animal, or abandoning an animal just because the punishment will be less than that of committing the same crimes against a human.
As a lifetime animal lover, and an owner of five pets, I look into the eyes of my furry family members, and I can see how much they love me. Although they cannot speak, every purr, every cuddle, every lick, every deep, caring look into my eyes tells me that they love me. I could never see the negatives in providing such loving, innocent, and often times, defenseless creatures with the same rights that we as humans are entitled to.
I believe that today we are closer than we have every been to providing rights to our animal counterparts. I have seen that more and more people are willing to open their homes to pets, becoming more compassionate towards animals, and are growing to be more proactive about the rights of pets. I hope that in my lifetime I will see pets having the same unalienable rights that we as humans have so that they too can enjoy a beautiful quality of life and the rights that they deserve as living, loving beings.