Up For Debate: Putting Pets Before People

March 9th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Is it right for humans to care more about their pets?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Is it O.K. for humans to care more for their pets than the people in their lives? 

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, reporter Elizabeth Bernstein notes that “love triangles” between people and pets “might be the trickiest types of relationships.” 

In the Florida home of Marina and Kirk Wolak, one-year-old German shepherd Buck gets better meals than his masters. Mrs. Wolak recently served the dog “steamed broccoli for breakfast, raw ribs for a snack, and a grilled chicken breast and baked sweet potato for dinner,” while her husband and daughter supped on simple chicken. Said Mr. Wolak, “There is only one answer to fixing the wedge between us, and that is to get rid of the dog.” 

“Everyone has a story about how their pets have affected their relationships with other people,” writes Bernstein, including the man whose girlfriend broke up with him because he paid more attention to a dog. The man currently owns two sick Pinschers — one with a liver disorder, the other with diabetes. “My dogs and their health have become my priority,” he said, “and I am not sure if I can ever be in a relationship again with someone who doesn’t understand how much I love them.”

“Wow,” commented a Journal reader. “Most of the people in the world don’t have clean water to drink. I like my dog, but you have got to be kidding me.” Substituting pets for children, countered another reader, doesn’t mean it’s a sad world, but rather “more of a responsible world. Not everyone wants or should have children.” 

Tell us what you think: Should responsibility to people always come before pets?