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Animals 2018, 8(9), 157;

“We Always Hurt the Things We Love”—Unnoticed Abuse of Companion Animals

Departments of Philosophy, Biomedical Sciences and Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Received: 13 July 2018 / Revised: 10 September 2018 / Accepted: 15 September 2018 / Published: 18 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
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Simple Summary

Over the last half-century, the role of companion animals in human society has changed dramatically. Where these animals were once seen as replaceable trinkets, they have now come to be viewed as “members of the family” by the majority of people who live with companion animals. Yet, despite this new status, we continue to inflict significant harm on these animals, and what is most tragic is that few animal owners take cognizance of the avoidable suffering which these animals go through. What I am primarily referring to is the proliferation of genetic diseases that characterizes pedigreed breeds. Most people bring dogs home while knowing nothing of their biology and genetics. Furthermore, many of the breed standards serve to augment, rather than minimize, these genetic problems that lead to a low quality of life and are also life-threatening. In general, the most popular breeds suffer the greatest number of genetic problems. These problems are perpetuated by non-rational considerations, such as trendiness, appearance in movies, and suchlike.


Despite the fact that companion animals enjoy the status of “members of the family” in contemporary society, there are numerous diseases affecting the longevity of these animals and their quality of life. Some of the most pervasive and damaging problems accrue to pedigreed animals whose genetic lines contain many major and severe diseases which are detrimental to both the quality and length of life. If one considers the most popular dog breeds in the United States, the top 10 include the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, French Bulldog, Beagle, Poodle, Rottweiler, Yorkshire Terrier, and German Shorthaired Pointer. Some idea of the pervasiveness of genetic defects across breeds can be gleaned from a recent book detailing genetic predisposition to disease. The book contains 93 pages of references. The list of diseases for the most popular dog, the Labrador Retriever, is 6.25 pages long. Yet, despite the tragic consequences of such diseases in animals regarded as beloved family members, breed standards associated with these diseases remain unchanged. This represents a major tragedy to which insufficient attention is paid. The point of this paper is to show that even as dogs have increasingly become viewed as “members of the family”, this status is belied by the proliferation of genetic diseases perpetuated by breed standards. View Full-Text
Keywords: dogs as family; genetic diseases; genetic diseases and breed standards; prevalence of diseases in popular breeds dogs as family; genetic diseases; genetic diseases and breed standards; prevalence of diseases in popular breeds
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Rollin, B.E. “We Always Hurt the Things We Love”—Unnoticed Abuse of Companion Animals. Animals 2018, 8, 157.

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