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Show them the money!

See the story about Cathy

Do you shudder when the TV newscaster reports another horrible animal abuse story? Do you wonder how people can treat animals so cruelly? Do you admire the Jane Goodalls of the world, great and small, but, geez, with the family and the job and the stress, who has the time? If you really would like to be one of the people who do something more than change the channel, then I've got a proposal for you. We all know about the power of the spoken word. I'm not talking about the in-your-face soapbox kind of thing that turns a lot of people off. What I'm talking about are subtle changes you can make in the way you refer to animals in your daily conversations, using words that can help to open minds rather than words that reinforce the status quo of animals as inferior beings. For instance, consider the word "pet." Stop using it. It implies ownership, rather than guardianship, of animals. Which in turn implies that animals are property. Which implies that the pet/property can be replaced by an article of equal or lesser value in the event "it" is stolen or damaged.

So you are not your "pet's owner." You are the guardian of a companion animal. He or she is not an "it," even if he or she has been neutered. You do not "get rid of" an animal whom, for reasons outside your control, you are unable to care for; you find him or her a new home. You do not "kill two birds with one stone," "beat a dead horse," or "bleed like a stuck pig." Crude people are not "animals." Calling someone a "filthy pig" is usually more of an insult to the pig. And, finally, even though you may still eat meat, at least remember that sirloin is dead cow.

All it takes is a little practice to recognize and eliminate the negative ways we've become accustomed to referring to our animal companions. And it can have a huge impact on the awareness of others.

So many people have a fierce opposition to the fact that animals have an inalienable right to our respect and guardianship. They are feeling, thinking creatures. Their abilities may be different than ours, but in many ways they are our superiors, and there is much we can learn from them. Is that threatening? Confusing? Are we afraid of the implications? Do we just not want to have to think about it?

Whatever the case, your use of positive language can open the hearts of those who haven't thought about it; encourage those who have thought about it but haven't been able to commit to what they believe in their hearts; raise questions in the minds of those who are opposed; and support those who share your feelings.

As far as the animals are concerned, that's a pretty good day's work.

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For an in-depth look at the exploitation of animals in the factory farming, research (vivisection), and fur industries, see:

Facing the Facts of Animal Treatment
by David Sztybel, Ph.D.



As of March 4, 2002, four cities and one state have adopted legislation acknowledging the right of individuals to consider themselves the guardians of their companion animals, replacing the term "owner" with the term “guardian.” Menomonee Falls, WI has joined Boulder, CO, West Hollywood and Berkeley, CA, Sherwood, AR, and the State of Rhode Island in passing this important legislation. Last July, Boulder became the first city to pass a measure to replace the word “owner” with the term “guardian” in their municipal ordinances.
27 June 2002
Los Angeles joins the list of cities and states adopting the term "animal guardian."

Michael W. Fox, vice-president of the Humane Society, said that, "to call an animal with whom you share your life a 'pet,' is reminiscent of men's magazines where you (a figure of speech, don't take it personally) have the "Pet of the Month." It is supposed that the continued use of the word "pet" to designate dogs or cats threatens to reduce their level of respect to the current status of twentieth century North American women. Now that's radical. ~The McGill Red Herring

Animal "Owners" Are Urged to Become "Guardians" in Honor of National Homeless Animals' Day
Mill Valley, CA
In honor of National Homeless Animals' Day (August 17th), In
Defense of Animals (IDA) is urging people to consider themselves "guardians" rather than "owners" of their companion animals. National Homeless Animals' Day helps publicize dog and cat overpopulation, increase public awareness of the millions of dogs and cats killed in shelters annually and helps emphasize the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals.

IDA's "They are not our property, we are not their owners" campaign
highlights people's responsibility to look after animals as their
companions, rather than to passively "own" them as they own a book or a pair of shoes. IDA encourages guardians to adopt and rescue animals rather than
to buy or breed them. Promotion of adoption is crucial to solving the
overpopulation crisis, which has left so many animals homeless. As long as people continue to buy and breed animals, the number of dogs and cats born will continue to increase faster than the number of loving homes for them, resulting in more homeless dogs and cats killed in shelters.

"The concept of "ownership" encourages people to think of their animals as property, commodities, or things. This leads to a large number of animals being abandoned and then killed in shelters," explains IDA President Elliot Katz, a veterinarian. "As the number of people who think and act as guardians grows, the number of animals who die in our nation's shelters will shrink."

What you can do:
Adopt or rescue a homeless animal rather than adding to dog and cat overpopulation by buying or breeding.
Refer to yourself and others as the
"guardian" rather than "owner" of companion animals.
As a guardian, ensure that the animals in your care are spayed or neutered and that they get the
food, health care, shelter, and companionship that they need. Educate others about what they can do to help animals.
Contact IDA at (415) 388-9641 if you would like to codify guardianship language in your community.

To learn more about IDA or the Guardianship Campaign, see

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