Animal rights ideology states that there should be no domesticated animals of any kind and no human utilitarian uses of animals of any sort.  This would cause great human harm, which animal rights/liberation theorists try to downplay so as to not lose any chance of suading the public to their misguided cause.  I mean, when most of your advocacy is emotion-based—photos of injured dogs or screaming monkeys—you can’t focus on the suffering and harm that would be caused to us if animal rights were the law of the land.

But make no mistake, we would suffer terribly if we gave up animal domestication, and sometimes that would come in the form of suffering that could have been alleviated remaining undiminished.  Case in point: Service dogs for the disabled provide tremendous benefit—as I outlined in A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy.  And now a good story in the Baltimore Sun shows how service dogs warn veterans with epilepsy that a seizure is coming on.  From the story:

Back in Maryland in 2006, Gwathmey saw his shakes worsening. Then came the nightmares and anxiety attacks. Worse, grand mal seizures began to strike Gwathmey without warning, knocking him unconscious several times a day. “He was getting worse, not better,” says CeCe Gwathmey, his wife and chief caregiver. As it turned out, only man’s best friend could help. In late 2007, a nonprofit group the Gwathneys had never heard of — America’s VetDogs of Smithtown, N.Y. — served up just the right medicine: a talented English retriever-golden Lab mix named Larry who can sense when a seizure is coming and bark out a warning, Lassie-style. “I thought the whole idea was crazy at first, but he has changed our lives,” says Gwathmey, 40, of Upper Marlboro...

“I do have hypervigilance [a lot] of the time, as if something bad’s about to happen,” says Gwathmey, whose continuing propensity for seizures prevents him from driving, and who is still unemployed after retiring from the military two years ago. “When he does that, it gives me a secure feeling. If it weren’t for him, I’d still have a hard time going out in public.”

[T]he dog has changed the Gwathmeys’ lives —... his presence allows CeCe to go to her full-time job, knowing that if a seizure hits, her husband will have time to take his meds and sit or lie down to prevent a fall. “He’s the other caregiver in the family,” she says. What they will see is one of the success stories of America’s VetDogs — a veteran who is still healing but has hope, working with a young man who has even more.

Service dogs provide tremendous benefit to people with disabilities, and are just one category of an infinite number of benefits we receive from animals.  That would have to stop if the rights crowd get their way.

So, there is much work to be done convincing people to turn their backs on animal rights, which most conflate with animal welfare.  We need our animals, and much human suffering would be caused if we gave them up.

Here’s the URL for AmericasVetDogs.  And here’s the URL of Assistance Dogs International.  And here is PETA’s statement against “working dogs,” including service dogs for the disabled:
They may be treated cruelly in preparation for and during their lives of servitude. Some people love their working dogs, but others don’t, which means that working dogs cannot count on having a home where they will be treated well. Also, some working-dog training programs contribute to overpopulation by breeding their dogs (with the notable exception of programs for the deaf, which rescue dogs from shelters). When working dogs become too old to work, they may be separated from their human companions and either “retired” to another family, returned to the training center, or even killed. Optimally, humans should be relied upon for support of the disabled rather than working dogs and other animals—it is too common for animals to be exploited and abused.

Retired service dogs are not just discarded, but receive caring and loving homes.  My good pal Dean Koontz’s beloved (the late) Trixie was a retired service dog, and their very sweet golden retriever Anna didn’t quite pass her training (she couldn’t learn to ignore squirrels)—and two happier canines could not be imagined.  (He and his wife Gerda have given millions to Canine Companions for Independence, a service dog training school.)  PETA can go fly a kite.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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