How do you define ‘humane?’

I’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember. And by “love,” I mean head-over-heels, reach-for-the-stars kind of love. Or more accurately, right-on-their-heels, chasing-the-dogs, “Let me loooveee youuu!” kind of love.

I’m the person who comes to your house and spends the whole visit petting the cat. If you ask me what I want to do, I’ll wonder, “Can we walk your dog?” Don’t even ask what happens when a horse catches my eye — liability and boundaries are only concepts, not procedures.

So when I went to a friend’s house as a kid, eyed up their household pooch, and patted the sofa beside me, I had a difficult time understanding why they’d say, “Oh! Chip isn’t allowed on the furniture.”

Whaaat! You’ve got to be kidding me! All he wants to do is curl up on the cushion beside me, how harmful can that be? And I’d send a little “I am so sorry” telepathy right back to the sad looking puppy laying in the corner on the cold, hard floor. I vowed that when the day came for me to bring my own dog home, he would be allowed to lay with me on the sofa and sleep in my bed.

As it turns out, allowing your dog to sleep with you can cause confusion over “herd” dominance and lead to obedience issues. Who knew? I sure didn’t, but I was looking at the dog as an equal, not an animal. So many of us make that mistake.

Animals absolutely deserve adequate care. They deserve a hearty meal every day, access to fresh water, and housing to shelter them from the elements. But that doesn’t necessarily mean grilled T-bone steak, a purified water fountain, and a two-story family abode.

One thing every animal lover must learn is that treating animals humanely doesn’t mean treating them like a human.

I have seen many comments on forums and online groups recently about how “inhumane” it is to keep rabbits outside in the summer, or to house them in cages with wire floors. I know the comments come with good intentions, much like my invitation to Chip to join me on the sofa. But there are practical reasons for those practices, much like Chip’s family’s reasons for not allowing him to sprawl out on the La-Z-Boy.

Rabbits are animals. As much as we love them, they thrive with a much different standard of care than humans do.

Any time I start to question this, I glance over at one of our Holland Lops who likes to flip his litterbox over and fill his cage with dirty litter. It’s not an accident, it is completely intentional. He waits until I’m “not looking” to slooooowwwllyyy perch his feet on the edge, check to make sure I’m still not looking, and FLIP!

It makes me cringe to see dirty litter on the carpet inside his cage, but he is happy as a clam and gets grumpy on cleaning day since he has to “fix” all the “damage” I do to his cage.

Feces on the carpet isn’t acceptable for humans. But dirty litter or bedding in an animal enclosure doesn’t mean the animals are neglected or less loved.

Life is messy if you share it with animals. We may have sweet visions of our pets curled up comfortably on cushions in the air-conditioned living room of our one-family ranch home. But quite honestly, those same pets are probably dreaming of running outside as soon as the door opens to roll in dead things and bathe in stagnant water.

Humane conditions, to me, imply that animals are housed securely in an environment conducive to their overall health and well-being. This is a concept I’ll come back to, time and time again for as long as this blog stays active.

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