‘Pets’ at risk of abuse and abandonment due to Covid-19

With friend and colleague Damien Riggs, we recently wrote an article for The Conversation titled ‘Abuse and Abandonment: Why Pets are at risk during this Pandemic.

In the piece we pointed out that we need full and proper consideration of animals in pandemics – from how their lives are affected by our being at home more and then our subsequent return to work leaving them alone, to how they might be affected by the higher domestic violence rates we saw during lockdowns.

Right now, it is unclear whether or how many fostered animals will be returned to shelters after lockdown or how many animals will be surrendered for a variety of reasons, chief among them economic hardship.

What is clear, though, is that many people are well aware that animals improve their quality of life and/or wanted to help out animals who were facing the prospect of being suck in shelters while the world was locked down around them. These are clearly positives.

What seems to have been less discussed is that animals tend to have been framed anthropocentrically throughout all of this – as aids to human health and wellbeing while in isolation. It’s a difficult subject as even with this framing some animals obviously benefit – by being in foster homes, having more human interaction and seeing the potential of securing a forever home as their foster humans fall in love with them, for example. And we’re all for moves that benefit other animals.

But we do need to think about the fact that framing them as aids to us underlines the power we have – to take them on, to hand them back no matter what bonds they may have formed with us and to surrender them when they become inconvenient. The idea that a dog is for life not just for lockdown, playing on older campaigns of an animal is for life not just for Christmas, can help here but even then we still persist in seeing animals as ‘things’ we can ‘own’ and this needs to change, urgently. As we concluded in The Conversation piece, with many of us at home now is the time to reflect on our treatment of other species.

 You can read the full article from The Conversation here.

Artwork: Heather Fraser, ‘Sleeping Puppy’.

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