Trust and the Modern Pet Owner

An extensive expose written by Tasneem Paghdiwala in Chicago on cruelty by animal trainers raises some important issues. In most areas, animal training is not highly regulated, meaning that anyone can set up an establishment as an “animal trainer,” and offer training services. Indeed, most animal related industries are not regulated; petsitting businesses, for example, do not require certification either in many regions.

On the one hand, this could be viewed as an opportunity for people who genuinely love animals to work with them. Without expensive training and certification requirements, a caring person can set up a petsitting agency, offering his or her services to clients. However, someone who intends to rob houses could do the same, as could a “trainer” with a cruel streak, as this article highlights.

I find it interesting that day cares must be regulated, but pet sitters do not need to be, especially when one thinks about how psychopathic behaviour develops. It doesn’t start with tormenting infants…it starts with torturing animals, as the Humane Society of the United States is well aware. In 1997, HSUS created First Strike, a program which specifically addresses the “link between animal cruelty and human violence.”

Animal cruelty laws don’t just protect animals, is what I am saying here. They are protect humans, by establishing a clear protocol for law enforcement in situations in which animal cruelty occurs. By addressing cases of animal cruelty seriously, and with severe punishments, we show that as a society in general, we do not tolerate cruelty. We also can address potential psychopaths before they become a problem.

While many states have greatly improved their animal cruelty laws and prosecution rates, the animal industry remains largely unregulated. I think that this case highlights the need for regulation, so that committed people who care for animals can be weeded out from the whackos. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: most professional trainers and dogsitters who genuinely care about their charges already attend certification courses, and usually seek licensure through a professional organization. A responsible pet sitter has insurance to protect your property, and a qualified trainer will tell you where he or she studied. Setting up uniform certification would not be onerous to genuine animal caregivers.

The question is…will we? I think that slowly, on a city by city basis, we may start to see regulations emerge, in response to cases like this. I think also that the training industry may become more self regulating, as we see a growing trend towards positive reinforcement training, rather than corrective training. Perhaps, someday, animal care facilities will have to go through the same process that day cares do, and pet owners will feel confident leaving their animals in caring hands.

I think that the only way this will happen, however, is if pet owners are active about lobbying lawmakers and pet care facilities, just as parents lobby for more aggressive supervision of the programs where they leave their children.

[preventing animal cruelty]