FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Politics of Pets

As our pets become an increasingly important part of our lives, politicians will need to take into account the needs of pets and their owners, factoring pet issues into regional and national policy.

Adding to the litany of things that Hurricane Katrina may have permanently changed, disaster planners need to develop contingency plans for allowing evacuated pet owners to take their pets with them, and for helping petowners care for their animals during emergencies. One insight from Katrina was the many Gulf Coast residents who stayed put during the storm because they refused to leave their pets behind.

Extending this line of thought, pet policies could even become pivotal in close political contests. Pets don't vote, but their owners do, and they might, for example, get behind the candidate who promises to create dog parks in town, or sponsor free rabies clinics. What about tax deductions for vet visits, medications and obedience training? Although most pet policies currently exist at the local level, could petowners eventually organize and create state and even a national lobby in the mold of the AARP?

Pet issues may even become prominent in the private sector. Employers might find pet insurance a pivotal benefit for attracting and keeping workers, as well as paid leave to tend to a sick pet.

Naturally, a, uh, bone of contention will ensue when one person's right becomes another person's nuisance, or even danger. Petowners who succeed in overturning restrictions on the number and type of pets, for example, may unintentionally open the door to dangerous and aggressive animals (if I can have any type of animal I want, can I keep a tiger in my backyard?), and exotic species that, if let out into the wild, could harm indigenous wildlife.

Source: Christian Science Monitor (via Yahoo)