Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wait a Minute...

AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen

After voicing my opinion that people are more important than pets (and dismissing anyone who thinks Congress ought to require evacuees to take their pets with them and prosecute those that don't), a reader posts the following comment:
NEWSFLASH! Many people legitimately see their pets at members of their family and treat them as such. Since you clearly cannot comprehend that, don't comment on it. People's pets are extremely important to them and they should take care of them. A pet isn't large enough to "take the place" of a human being in a rescue. Don't comment on an emtional connection you don't comprehend. I'm sure you'd keep your dog chained outside behind the garage. Crazy indeed.
Well I just can't have FWOb readers out there thinking that I hate little puppies or don't understand the emotional connection between pets and their owners, so I must respond.

Actually, I had a dog growing up (he still lives with my parents), so I have a good idea of the kind of bond that exists between man and man's best friend.

But I also know that dogs -- or cats, or birds, or lizards, or fish -- are not people. They are animals. And in a disaster situation like Hurricane Katrina, allowing -- or even requiring -- people to bring along their pets is not a good idea; it's stupid.

Family pets, though lovable and fun to play with, are dependent on families for their food, water, and shelter. But in a catastrophe, those families can't even provide food, water, and shelter for themselves -- there's no possible way they can do the same for their pets.

That means that someone else would have to provide for both the animals and the people. And in an emergency situation, devoting some of the inevitably limited resources to animals means diverting them from human beings, and that's just not acceptable. And even if that wasn't a concern, dealing with a large group of animals interacting with each other in a rescue shelter or on an evacuation bus would unavoidably lead to barking, biting, and fighting -- "activity that," as Tim Noah of Slate put it, "is unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst when you're trying to solve a human crisis."

And don't try to tell me that rescuing pets doesn't preclude rescuing people. Taking the time to pluck a dog from the roof of a house via helicopter delays that helicopter from going on to the next house, and when the water is rising, that time could be the difference between life and death.

So I'm sorry, but I'm not the heartless person without the capacity to comprehend the "emotional connection" the commenter assumed me to be. No, I'm a level-headed person who understands that in a situation like New Orleans, your first and primary goal is to save as many lives as possible -- human lives. And no human life should take a back seat to you saving your puppy.

No matter how cute it might be.

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