This is my dog

We always see selfies of people with their dogs or cats, it is a standard profile pic or social media post.

Last column I discussed the proposed changes to the “Responsible Pet Ownership” by-law. The window on the request for responses has closed now, but there will be a proposal put before council, and council must vote on it, so the job to save our pets is not done. Not by a long shot.

Recently, I encouraged people in some social media pages to post a picture of them and their pets that are on the proposed ban list, with the theme “This is My Dog” or “This is My Cat”. For many people, dogs and cats are just not possible, due to where they live, how they live, or even that their bodies react to the fur or dander of dogs or cats.

On the other hand, there are people that have dogs, cats and a host of “exotic” pets, some on the allowed list, and some that “Animal Services” are trying to ban. Choosing who you spend your time with isn’t something someone else can decide for you, and sometimes the most unusual companions work the best.

In the extreme cases, “Emotional Support” animals truly can save people lives. While most of these animals are dogs, who do an amazing job supporting their companions, again, some instances do not allow for a dog in a person’s life. We have all seen news stories about emotional support pigs, duck and even hamsters.

Any animal that you share space with enriches your life. They touch us in so many ways. Sometimes, just knowing there is another living thing that needs you can get you through some tough moments. There are those who support this bylaw that would suggest keeping any animal captive is cruel, and stresses out the animal.

One expert in the city’s zoom call about the RPO suggested making eye contact with a reptile is a stressor. Which is an odd suggestion. When I was a young man, living in a “no pets” apartment downtown Toronto, I had a small colony of Leopard Geckos. When I would arrive home from a hard day of sales, I would sit down at my computer, and with the first keystroke, a number of heads would pop out of caves, and they would come to the front of the cage, where I would pick up one or two, and let them snuggle in under my collar as I worked. It was remarkably calming, knowing a little being was nestled into my body heat, enjoying my company. Pretty sure my “eye contact” wasn’t stressing it out. But these “experts” would have you think that is the case.

In captivity, these animals live longer, eat more regularly, and do not worry about predators. In the wild, an animal may have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of offspring, yet barely 2 will survive. In captivity, those that breed will have almost their entire broods survive and live long, healthy lives. I get that keeping an Orca in a swimming pool is wrong, but the care and maintenance of exotic pets is far from that. I’m not saying that every exotic is taken care of appropriately, and the exotic pet community works hard to educate potential owners, and I have yet to see an exotic pet that was not able to be cared for properly that we could not find a proper, caring home for.

The “This is My Dog” campaign featuring the exotic pets people have instead of dogs has a second purpose. The animal activist groups have a single goal in mind, and the endgame is that no animal be kept or killed for human pleasure or sustenance. I’m all for preventing cruelty and mistreatment of animals, do not get me wrong. When someone abuses an animal, be it a snake, a dog or a cow, they need to be punished severely.

But these groups start with the Orcas, then the Ball Pythons, then farm animals and work their way to your dog. If they can take away “My Dog” with this by-law, how long will it be before they come for your dog? It is a slippery slope, and reasonable people need to step in and stop it before an avalanche happens. Winnipeg cannot be the first pebble falling down the hill. Tell your city councillor that we are the Heart of Friendly Manitoba, and we welcome all people and animals, as long as they care and are cared for well.

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