Blurring the definition of Pets

Life happens in threes, or so they say, and it certainly has been true in our lives lately. Between a series of family emergencies and last minute flights cross-counntry, this little blog and our Twitter presence have been neglected. Now that things seem to have settled (fingers crossed), I wanted to share something from my recent trip to my mother in Texas.

I have treated tarantulas, hermit crabs, and the occassional chipmunk. I am rather difficult to surprise when it comes to what sick pet will enter the exam room. I was a bit stunned to see a particular animal, actually about a baker’s dozen of them, enclosed in an area no larger than 1 acre while I was on a jog while in the Lone Star State.

online vet

It’s not the craziest pet animal I’ve heard of, but these pet deer looked less than happy.  I asked my mother about it, and she implied that neighbors were very upset about it, including a nearby police officer, but there was apparantly nothing that could legally be done about it. The owners claimed the deer were pets and the legal line was drawn that protected the animals.

What do you think: are undomesticated animals fair game for pets? Have you know anyone that had an atypical pet species that you felt blurred the definition of pet?

Whether or not the people actually kept the deer as pets instead of a local supply of venison is uncertain. My mother was certain that the number of deer had steadily increased, starting from just a few to now over 10. One has to wonder how inbred these creatures are.

The part that seemed so cruel to me was the tiny area that were kept in. The terrain was largely void of grass, I suspect partly due to the fact that so many deer were pinned up in a small area, but also partly to the fact that Texas is in record-breaking drought, and these people seemingly failed to take any measures to encourage grass growth. There were but a couple trees, and the deer huddled underneath them in the shade for a shield from the triple digit degree weather.

The domestication of species never ceases to amaze me. Though our dog and cats all enjoy play sessions outside, they prefer the comfort of the climate-controlled indoors, and the proximity to their people—and the kitchen of course. Over the generations, they have truly become domesticated.

exotic petsDeer, on the other hand? I can’t help but believe that these animals these people kept were suffering and living miserable lives. It’s not as if they are being wonderfully cared for, living coddled indoor lives.  They were outside in the hot sun, with no environmental stimulation that I could spot.  They were straight from the woods, generation one wild deer. They certainly seemed bored in their small enclosure, doing nothing more than laying the entire time I passed by them, which was about 10 times during my visit, as I was disturbingly fascinated with them.

I do realize certain demgraphics carry different standards of what is expected from pet owners, both in terms of how far they will seek medical treatment for their pets, and what living standards are considered the norm. Here in Pennsylvania, I rarely see an outdoor dog, but in this part of Texas, even in the brutal summer heat, most all the houses have outdoor dogs, either fenced or running freely. While this seems weird to me, I do realize I am a veterinarian and very pro-pet. What owning and caring for a pet means to me, is certainly different than what having a pet means to some people. Who am I to say it is wrong to keep those dogs outdoors? While it is not for me, it is a different mindset and culture.

As far as the deer go, I think it crossed a line. I can’t see how it is responsible to keep wild animals pinned up in an unnatural environment. Then again, I am merely an outsider speculating on something which I don’t have all the facts.  What do you think?

Dr. Laci


atypical pets, sick pets

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June 25, 2011 at 18:14

Well, I think a simple measure would be how happy the animal is. I realize that might be hard to measure, but that truly would be the only measure that would be fair.

June 25, 2011 at 19:51

Oh Jana, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I know we have been off the grid lately; life has been crazy. I too think it is the animals happiness that is most important. Sad everyone doesn’t believe that.

June 25, 2011 at 20:10

Yeah, I was wondering what was going on with you. Sorry about the hard times.