The ethical question of whether animals should be kept as pets is so complicated that people will continue to debate it for years
The ethical dilemma facing many dog owners is whether they should adopt a kitten instead of a dog.
This summer, the government will be reviewing whether it is legal to keep animals as pets (subject to a number of restrictions).
While the government says that keeping an animal as a pet is “particularly appropriate” for those with health problems or who work away from home, the loophole in the law means that many people choose to use domestic animals to cut costs and to keep pets away from other family members.
Under current legislation, the government is open to amending the rules to reduce the number of animals, and more can be adopted for less money than was legally acceptable 10 years ago.
However, several animal charities have campaigned for an absolute ban on the ownership of animals for non-specified domestic purposes, warning that the number of non-breed-specific animals being kept as pets has doubled in the past 15 years, and animal welfare groups feel animal welfare will continue to suffer as people hoard animals.
A spokesman for the wildlife charity Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said: “We already have our hands full looking after an average of nearly 10,000 abandoned cats and dogs every week in England alone, which means we would not be able to be there for everyone else if there was a total ban.”
A study by the League Against Cruel Sports found that in 2015, around 6.3 million pets were registered in England, which is more than double the number registered in 2001.
In May, it will be possible to nominate a pet to kill for the annual RSPCA Cruelty Detection Quest (C2D Quest), a ranking based on types of crime the individual has committed as an animal owner.
This year, the non-breeding categories for cats and dogs were abolished in the Quest, but dogs are still allowed as an entry category for farmers and breeders.
Can you keep your pet as a pet? Read more
So, what are the options?
Most animal charities, including the RSPCA, will work with anyone willing to save a dog or cat when they are abandoned. So, while taking in a small stray as a pet may seem risky, animal charities are the best place to approach this.
Kerry Bishop, animal collections officer at the RSPCA, said: “You can always give away the animal, and that is the best option.”
If someone is desperate to keep their pet, Bishop suggests contacting the RSPCA first. “We can help people to place their animal into a second home or get a microchip so that the pet is identified. We don’t turn people away.”
Cat and dog welfare charities are also helpful if people wish to adopt a new pet. Once an animal is picked up by a rescue centre, it usually stays for around a month before it is released back into the community, and staff can offer useful advice on dealing with any health problems or fears the animal may have.
There is no doubt that the choice of keeping a pet or adopting a kitten is a difficult one. There is certainly a lot more to know before you make the decision, and if you would like to be given more information about the options, make sure you speak to an expert or simply choose a pet charity.