A new series on Channel Five has just started, titled “The World’s Most Pampered Pets” The programme blurb says the following: “A fun, entertaining and moving programme meeting a collection of the most glamorous and well-kept pets in the world today. From a Californian man who keeps lizards as house guests and the Aussie ducks who dress for the catwalk to the world’s richest chimp and President Obama’s dog Bo, discover why some people spend as much money on their pets as they do on themselves.”
When it comes to pets, one person’s “pampering” is another person’s “loving care”. Where should the line be drawn?
Here is Pete’s view on some of the main issues.
Generally, it’s up to people to choose how they spend their money. Some wealthy people choose to spend their funds on helicopters, yachts, expensive holidays and gourmet restaurants. Others choose to spend money on their pets. As long as the animals don’t suffer while they are being “pampered”, this is an ethical choice for the individual people to make.
I don’t see why “pets” are any worse than the other luxuries, but for some reason, people seem to get more emotional and indignant when the money is spent on animals rather than other consumer items. The argument that “the money should be given to needy humans” is rarely used when it comes to other types of material excess, so I don’t see why it should be used so often when it comes to luxury pet care. That said, I do have my own opinions on the various types of high expenditure on pets:
Buying expensive pedigree or designer pooches:
Not necessary – get yourself a friendly rescue dog instead, and save a life, giving your funds to needy animal rescue groups at the same time.
Including fur dye, nail painting, fancy grooming and clothes.
I find these activities bizarre. As long as the animal does not suffer while they are being done, and as long as people remember that they are doing it for themselves, not for the animals, I see it as just a harmless frivolity. Dogs do not know what they look like and couldn’t care less if their nails are pink, their hair is fluffy or if they are wearing a waistcoat or a frock.
If you do this type of thing, you are pampering yourself, not your pet. To me, it’s unnecessary and a waste of money.
If you want to spend hundreds of pounds a month on home delivered fresh food, again, remember that you are doing this to make yourself feel good, not for the sake of your pet. Dogs have basic nutritional needs that can be simply met for no more than a few euro a day. If you wish to spend more than this, that’s fine, but your pet will not benefit any more than by feeding a good quality standard diet
Bedrooms, televisions and other home luxuries for pets:
You can buy good quality, entertaining toys for a few euro: if you want to spend much more money than that, that’s your choice, but it isn’t necessary. Your dog needs your time more than your money when it comes to entertainment. You’d be better to spend half an hour twice a day training and playing with your dog rather than a thousand euros on toys and accessories.
Expensive medical care:
There are stories about dogs’ lives being saved after spending over €30,000 on treatments such as dialysis, chemotherapy and radical surgery. This is always a difficult one to answer: each case stands on its own and should be judged on its own merits.
My view is that dogs don’t have an awareness of the prospect of death, and the concept of “length of life”. It’s more important that they have a good quality of life, rather than a long life. If a three year old dog needs a new stainless steel hip costing €4000, go ahead. If a sixteen year old dog needs the same operation, I would be very wary about recommending this. If a dog has cancer that can be completely cured by an innovative treatment that might cost €10000, and the owner has the funds, then why not?
But if intensive treatment that includes suffering for the dog is only a temporary measure that lasts for a few months, again, I would be wary. These are not always easy decisions, and it is always a case of detailed discussions between the vets and the owners. Pet insurance helps a lot here: it allows decisions to be made on the basis of “what is best for the pet” rather than “what the owner wants to (or is able to) spend.
Expensive day care and training:
If you are too busy working to spend time with your pet, then yes, spend money to get other people to do it for you. Your pet will appreciate the attention, but remember that they (and you ) would have more fun if you were the person doing it rather than a stranger.
Parties for dogs:
Dogs may enjoy socialising, but they would be perfectly happy in the local dog park down the road with a mixed assortment of friends. Expensive parties at home are for their owners, not for the dogs. Again, to me, this is a waste of money, but who am I to dictate how people spend their own funds?
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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.