Are Pets Really Family?

We should be cautious about using the phrase “pets are family” as an endorsement of the way companion animals are currently treated or as a sign that all is well, but should use the language of family very mindfully and with attention to what is at stake.

A Decent Minimum of Care for Companion Animals

The increasing range of options for caregivers of companion animals should be celebrated. And it should also remind us that although there can be too much of a good thing, there can also be too little. Far too many pets are denied basic care like dental hygeine, antibiotics, and treatment for pain.

A Path of Few Regrets

Decisional regret—the remorse or distress than patients or caregivers experience after making high-stakes health care decisions— is a real risk, especially in high stakes decisions such as euthanasia. Although much discussed in the human health care literature, decisional regret is rarely addressed in the veterinary context.

Dogs and the Death Penalty

Serious attention is being given to the human death penalty right now—both its overall constitutionality and morality, and also the particular methods by which it is carried out. This is a good opportunity to reexamine the use of death penalty language in relation to companion animals and assess whether it helps or harms.

Moving Beyond the Euthanasia Imperative

Why is natural death wrong for our companion animals? Why is it a dangerous idea that animals could be—at least in some circumstances—kept comfortable and shielded from significant suffering as they live out their last days? And to turn the question backwards, why is euthanasia the unchallenged imperative in veterinary medicine?

Doctors Googling Patients

Patients routinely research doctors on the Internet. Is it ethical for doctors to research their patients in return?

Heading toward First Human Head Transplant?

If “head transplant” sounds like the stuff of science fiction, think again. The possibility for such an operation seems to be drawing ever nearer. The surgeon is ready and a suitable patient has volunteered.

Sex with Animals

Is zoophilia, or sexual attraction to animals, a sexual orientation? Or is it a perversion? And is it possible to engage in zoo-sex without causing harm?

Is Euthanasia Just Another Pet Service?

Euthanasia is often listed alongside nail trimmings and flea treatment, as if it were one among a series of “services” a pet owner might seek out on a given day. Isn’t the killing of a pet a far more serious proposition, morally speaking, than a mere “pet service” like a vaccination or a quick shampoo?

6 Best Holiday Gifts for Your Dog

Here are six gifts your dog will really appreciate

The Yellow Dog Project

The Yellow Dog Project is an innovative global movement to identify and protect dogs who need their personal space respected. If widely understood as a symbol of “proceed with caution,” yellow ribbons could help dogs and their guardians interact safely with their community and could help prevent uncomfortable or dangerous encounters.

Doctor, Computer, Patient

In the evolution of health care toward increasing use of computers, we are losing far more than just the undivided attention of our doctor; we are losing some of the healing power of medicine.

What Matters Most in End-of-life Discussions?

According to a new study, physicians and patients discussed only 2 out of 11 important elements of end-of-life care plans.

Ethical Taxidermy?

Doing your taxidermy work yourself is the best way to ensure that the animals have been “ethically sourced.”

The Gentle Art, Part I

I recount my experiences shadowing a euthanasia veterinarian on her daily rounds.

The Gentle Art, Part II

What is it like to follow along with a euthansia veterinarian and see her work?

Do You Have a Glass Half-Empty Kind of Dog?

A new research study out of the University of Sydney has tried to objectively measure whether a given dog is pessimistic or optimistic. Researchers used what’s called a cognitive bias test to explore how the affective state of a dog would influence the interpretation of ambiguous signals.

News of the Weird, Pet Edition

Strange things are afoot in the world of pets. Just this week, three unusual stories have crossed my desk: a dead rat is turned into a helicopter, a goldfish has life-saving surgery, and an innovative company makes biomass energy out of dead pets.

Life Is Cheap, if It's for Sale

Research suggests that the current system of buying and trading and selling animals “incentivizes” people to devalue animals in exchange for personal gain. This essay explores how markets lead to moral decay in relation to animals.

He Saw/She Saw

When it comes to ascribing complex emotions such as grief to nonhuman animals, men are far more skeptical than women. According to new research, men are less likely to believe that animals show behavioral reactions to grief, such as vocalizing or refusing to eat, and are less likely to believe that an animal can suffer from the loss of a conspecific.

No Cameras Please

Are ways in which we ought to respect the privacy of animals, and are there “invasions” of privacy that might be unethical? The fact that we don’t even think twice about who and what we film hints at an underlying failure to consider animals as moral subjects.

Pit Bulls as Weapons?

The media sometimes draws an analogy between breed specific restrictions and restrictions on gun rights. This reinforces prejudiced attitudes toward pit bulls and other so-called “dangerous” breeds.

Fat Cat Fiasco

Is it a form of abuse if you allow your animal to become morbidly obese? According to a judge in Ottowa, the answer is yes.

Grave Grief

Even though euthanasia of companion animals is something that a vast majority of pet owners will face, there hasn’t been a great deal of research into how people make these grave end-of-life decisions and what the emotional fallout is for human caregivers of dying animals. A new study sheds some light on this common but under-researched experience.

Monkey Deaths at Harvard

The Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has fined Harvard Medical School for animal welfare violations, including the deaths of four monkeys.

“Doing, Saying, and Being” in End-of-Life Care

Have you ever wondered what to say to someone who is losing, or has just lost, a beloved family member? Even though death is something that occurs with unerring regularity, it is something we rarely feel equipped to address.

Giving Pets as Gifts

Animal welfare organizations generally take the position that animals should never be given as gifts. New research suggests that animals given as gifts actually have a pretty good chance at remaining with their owner and are just as well-loved—if not more so—than animals who were not received as gifts.

Animal Euthanasia and Traumatic Stress

Research suggests that people whose work involves euthanizing animals may suffer from perpetration-induced traumatic stress (or PITS). The traumatic after-effects of euthanizing a beloved pet are also sometimes a significant source of suffering for pet owners.

"Dog's Life"

Cassim Ladha and colleagues at Newcastle University in the UK designed what they call an “automated behaviour assessment system for dogs.” The key premise behind the research is that welfare assessments in dogs can be based on objective observations of behavior that reflect well-being.

Come Into the Light, Fluffy!

What happens to the consciousness of an animal during and after death? Might dogs and cats and other creatures experience lucid visions and hallucinations during the process of dying? A recent animal study sheds some interesting light on the near-death experience question.