Cecile Richards Is Right

By John Zmirak Published on April 5, 2018

The retiring president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, is catching a lot of heat for the following social media message:

And I don’t know why. By posting the hashtag #AdoptDontShop, she expressed something humane and sensible about animal adoption. Instead of taking issue with her on topics where we disagree, I’d like to work with her on this one.

The Friends of Our Kind

Fin Rayne wicker

Finnegan and Rayne Zmirak

Dogs are a breed apart from  other animals. As a species they only exist because we adopted them as allies. Traces of dogs as pets show up in the sites of the oldest, most primitive human settlements. They help us hunt, guide the blind, herd our sheep, guard our homes, and most of all they are our friends. They offer priceless companionship, loyalty, and unconditional love to the lonely, the aged, the infirm. And all they ask in return is two meals a day, clean water, room to play, and basic medical care. I don’t say that dogs are equal to humans in value. But if you think human life is sacred, then canine life at the very least is special, because they’re so close to us. Indeed, every night you can find two of them curled up right beside me.

Over the years I have adopted five dogs, including the brother and sister duo of beagle puppies Finnegan and Rayne. (Remember, they got me evicted? Even now they are fighting and barking loudly enough to make this writing difficult.) In each dog I saw the same boundless potential: each one, however difficult his circumstances, possessed the very same nature. Each one, however “unwanted,” was still fully canine. And each would respond to love, and care. Each had something unique to offer the world. How tragic if these innocent, harmless creatures got destroyed, and that potential thrown away in some medical dumpster.

Some Pet Food Companies Sell Puppy Parts

Even worse could have happened. As I’ve learned from the invaluable safety resource Pet Food Advisor, some unscrupulous pet shelters or other vendors have been making a profit off the bodies of these abandoned animals. One brand of pet food I used to buy is part of a national scandal. Batches of its food have turned up containing the euthanasia drugs used at pet shelters — suggesting that companies are using dead shelter dogs in dog food. I know, it’s disgusting. Appalling. Not even in death do these friends of man get the basic respect of a burial. And all for the sake of slating some person or organization’s greed. I’m sure that Ms. Richards agrees with me that this scandal deserves a full, federal investigation.

In each dog I saw the same boundless potential: each one, however difficult his circumstances, possessed the very same nature. Each one, however “unwanted,” was still fully canine. And each would respond to love, and care. Each had something unique to offer the world.

America’s Culture of Death

Clearly there’s something going wrong with our culture. Each year some 670,000 dogs are destroyed each year in shelters. Meanwhile, 2 million dogs are bred each year in abusive puppy mills, and countless others born to professional breeders, or to pet owners who didn’t “fix” their dogs. What does that mean? That millions of people are behaving irresponsibly, but our laws enable them instead of correcting them. And the dogs pay the price.

Say some couple thinks it would be “cool” to get a dog of a one beloved breed. Instead of looking into one of the breed-specific rescue groups (such as DFW Beagle Buddies, which helped me find Rayne and Finnegan) they give in to the passion of the moment. They drive up to some pet store and buy a puppy bred at one of those inhumane puppy mills. That helps such mills stay open — and meanwhile, across town at some shelter, some beautiful dog of the very same breed is euthanized, and maybe made into dog food.

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The Law Should Defend the Innocent

Why should the law let us indulge our selfish passions like this, when animals are suffering? Should our culture approve reckless self-indulgence by pet consumers, at the price of the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents? Why let a multi-million dollar industry of death, in the form of puppy mills, flourish right under our noses?

Yes, if we followed Ms. Richards’ advice, we’d have to exercise a little forethought and self-restraint. We might have to make some compromises, instead of grabbing exactly what we want just when we want it. But isn’t that the least we can ask of human beings? That they channel their desires within the boundaries of reason and plain compassion?

Until recently, we could pretend that we didn’t know about what takes place in kill shelters. We could tell ourselves that only vicious, grossly deformed or very sick dogs were put to sleep in them. But technology has changed all that. The Internet shows us that thousands of healthy, loving dogs are destroyed every day. They are every bit as canine as your pet or mine. And they die needlessly, just because of our selfish choices.

I’m glad that Ms. Richards is using her public platform to condemn this destruction of the innocent. At some point I’d like to speak to her about broadening her focus to include just one more species. …

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