Is it ethical to own a dog?

I have always wanted a dog ever since I was a little girl. However my parents are not pet people so I had to make do with walking and playing with our next door neighbour’s dog as I grew up. Josh and I have always fantasised about our small holding, and having lots of dogs and children has always been a part of our ‘perfect future’.


However, I was talking to my friend the other day who was preparing a seminar on Vegetarianism and she made a comment that made my heart sink…"I’ve been thinking, it doesn’t really seem very ethical to have dog anymore, not now that food prices are rising. How can we spend thousands of pounds on a dog when there are millions of people starving all over the world?” I had never thought of it that way, but I knew that it wasn’t something I could dismiss.


Apparently there are 6.5 million dogs spread across 20% of UK households making them, after cats, Britain’s favourite pet.  Owning a dog will cost you around £1000 a year (and that’s not including those people who spend hundreds on sparkly collars and little cute jumpers for their darling Fluffy – I personally consider this barking). Now, according to my maths, this means that we as a nation are spending around £6b 500m a year on our dogs alone? (surely I have done my sums wrong here?!) Add to that the cost of cleaning up after dog fouling, which according to Keep Britain Tidy statistics costs the UK a further £22m a year. That is a lot of money. I couldn’t find any statistics on how much it would cost to eradicate world poverty but I would guess that this money would make a big dent in it. I know that there are lots of issues with solving world poverty including market crashes and the like - which I won’t try and understand - but it’s the principle. Should we be putting our pets before other people in the world who are living in awful poverty? I just read one shocking article in which someone declared that in a burning building they would rescue their dog instead of a total stranger, just because they didn’t know them, and therefore didn’t care about them so much.

And it’s not just about money is it? Our pets are taking up valuable energy and resources through the food they eat. Realistically the food we give our dogs is probably more nutritious than many in the third world will ever consume.


But I really want a dog! Many people rely on them as well for their work, of if they have a disability, and they are well known for their therapeutic qualities. I was thinking that maybe it would be okay to have a rescue dog, because they are alive anyway and have not been bred especially for you. Maybe this would be a more acceptable option than buying straight from a breeder…


…It’s a tough one and I haven’t really made up my mind. What do you think? Is it ethical to have a pet?


  1. Its hard to say, really. I myself have two cats and an absent family. In a huge disaster, I would want to save my cats. The connection I've formed with my pets is a very strange one and yet it is strong. I think the issue posed by your friend is a little worrying because it might be interpreted by people as saying that they should start dumping pets for ethical reasons because there are starving people in the world. I know it was meant to

  2. Sorry abt the above comment, please feel free delete it, my computer fritzed as I typed it and it somehow got sent.

    Anyway, I think it's a much, much deeper issue than money and food being 'wasted' on companion animals. For one, humans have taken over a world and displaced animals, so in a way, we are responsible for the welfare of the animals we have either displaced or domesticated. But in the end, its a personal decision, and I do believe that its possible to have a pet and not be too wasteful about it i.e. without wasting money or resources on items which my pets can live without.

  3. Yeah, I do agree it’s a deeper issue because although I wouldn’t put pets on the same level as humans they are still living creatures, and I would definitely never suggest that people start dumping their pets and giving their money to charity instead because that’s just irresponsible and cruel.

    Thanks for your view :)

  4. the attachment you have with a pet is wierd although not human they do become a family member and you will always want to rescue a family member before a stranger.

    And as for ethics, I would rather have a dog and a friend than have them running around ripping open bins. Assuming they knew how to survive like that im not convinced they would and dogs are beautiful creatutes so would be a shame for them to die out.

  5. We are all animals. I don't see any ethical issues with keeping a dog because I believe we have a duty to find beauty and love in our lives as well as deal with all the practical matters that present themselves.

    I have two Airedale Terriers. They're now 11 and 12 years old, Rosie, the elder, is a rescue dog. Over the years Rosie and Alice have given us love, kept our blood pressure down, protected us and our chickens. Our lives are better for having lived with them.

    We spend around $500 (australian) feeding our dogs. We make their food using low quality beef mince from the butcher, grains - like barley and brown rice - and vegetables from our garden. They are two very healthy dogs.

    Do yourself a favour and visit a pound. Find a dog to love and give it a decent life. You'll benefit from it no end.

  6. The dog my parents had when I was living with them wasn't seen as simply a pet but as a part of the family (as a family member) and we treated her as such.

    I say if you want a dog then go for it. Follow your heart and not your head (9 times out of 10 your heart will win out over your head).