Should pet owners be punished for punishing their pets?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published by The Other Press. Jan. 21, 2014

As 2013 ended, a video surfaced on the Internet showing a Taiwanese college student, Kiki Lin, stuffing her pet cat into a jar. The video went viral and the public was outraged by the despicable and irresponsible act.

At first there was speculation that Lin was punishing her pet; then she stated that she loved her cat and was only looking for a different way of transporting it. Regardless of the intention, the act was inhumane and regrettable. Still, this situation triggered some questions: is it ever okay to punish an animal? How does an owner discipline their pet without seeming cruel? Is that possible?

Every culture has a different technique for disciplining their pets, the same way they have different techniques for raising children. While spanking is appropriate and accepted in some places, it isn’t in North America. We must abide by these cultural customs. Bringing children into the world and pets into the household is a big responsibility, and when life is affected, we should always follow the status quo.

Physical punishment is never okay. Period. Striking an animal with your hand, a newspaper, or any foreign object will not teach the animal anything but fear—and fear is not obedience. We, as owners, must understand that there is a difference between discipline and punishment. Dogs, cats, and other animals don’t think logically like we do, so punishing them is nothing more than abuse, because they cannot comprehend what they’ve done wrong.

Poor owners become trapped in a weird situation where they must spend time and effort correcting their pet, grudgingly accepting its misbehaviour, or abandoning it. If you find yourself unhappy with a pet and you have strained all your patience, you’re probably not right for it.

Like any domestic relationship, chemistry and compatibility matter. It doesn’t mean that you hate animals or that you might beat your wife when times get tough, but why should you live with something or someone you dislike? You might not be punishing the animals, but you’re definitely punishing yourself. The animal won’t be able to divorce or be emancipated from you, so it’s up to you, with your human brain, to decide the decent action to take.

There is a belief that animals cannot judge their owner, plan, or instigate, but I believe that animals are more intelligent then people give them credit for. Sometimes humans and pets just don’t see eye to eye and it’s best for both parties to separate. There are a lot of animals left as strays in the SPCA; let that be the last resort. It’s a better option than animal cruelty, which can cost you a court trial, thousands of dollars in fines, and years of imprisonment.

Give up the animal if you don’t want it. It’s not your toy, it’s not your slave. If you ever see an animal being mistreated by an owner, let them know the severity of the law. I ask the question again: should owners be punished for abusing their pets? Odds are, they are already punishing themselves and we must step in to help them. Let’s hope the solution can keep both animals out of a cage.

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