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Is Having Pets Morally Permissible?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

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In this article, I consider the question of whether having pets is morally permissible. However, I do so indirectly by considering three objections to the practice of having pets — what I shall call the ‘restriction of freedom objection’, the ‘property objection’, and the ‘dependency objection’. The restriction of freedom objection is dismissed relatively easily. The property objection also fails to show that having pets is morally impermissible. However, my consideration of this second objection does lead to the conclusion that we ought to aim at changing existing legal systems and the majority of people's attitudes towards pets such that they (pets) are no longer considered to be the personal property of the humans in whose homes they are kept. But, while it is clear that we ought to aim at ending the practice of owning pets, it is not clear whether we ought to aim at ending the practice of keeping pets. Indeed, I do not to reach a definitive conclusion about the cogency of the dependency objection. However, I argue that this lack of clarity is of little concern at this time as our present moral obligations to pets are quite clear.