Differentiating Between Pet Parents and Pet Owners

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 25, 2017

Are you a pet owner, or do you see yourself as a pet parent? For me, I emotionally see myself as a “mom” to my fur babies. I have two dogs, a cat, and three birds, and they are my world. My life revolves around my four-legged and winged children. I provide their food, shelter, safety, education, and entertainment—not to mention love.

I spend most of my free time with my pets. We travel together, and we visit their “grandparents” and doggie “cousins.” We even have family nights where all my energy is spent loving them, going for walks, playing with their toys, and snuggling on the couch.

I own many things, such as furniture, clothes, and cars, and I don't have this type of emotional attachment to those objects. But legally, I am a pet owner, and they are my property. I am responsible for their medical care and treatment, as well as humanely caring for and protecting them from neglect and abuse.

Pet Ownership vs. Pet Guardianship

In recent years, many states have entertained the idea of changing the term pet “owner” to “guardian.” However, this would change many aspects of pet ownership. It would take certain rights away from people who have pets, and put the rights into the hands (or paws) of the animal.

There are many animal rights activist organizations that would like to see the law changed. And although the goal is to always act in the best interest of the pet, the problem is that the pet owner (or parent) could lose certain rights. Medical treatment options could be questioned by anyone other than the owner, including local, self-appointed experts. In addition, people could petition courts for custody of a pet, if they don't agree with the care or treatment being provided.

Though I want what's best for my “kids,” I still want the right to develop an educated decision, along with my veterinarian, as to what's in my pet's best interest. I do not want the state to have the power to tell me what's best for my pet.

Pets Are Part of the Family

I don't have human children; I choose to have pets as my family. I have had dogs, cats, birds, fish, ferrets, rabbits, you name it. I have cared for each one of them to the best of my ability, as I would a child. I see myself as their “mom,” and I love them as so.

My pets are my responsibility, my right to own, and a large part of my life. Much of my time and energy is spent caring for, nourishing, and engaging my “kids.” They sleep in my bed and eat off my plate. But when it comes down to it, I still own them.

I am happy that the law of animal ownership is on my side. I believe I know what's best for my pet. No one knows their needs and desires better than me, and I want to maintain the right to provide the best care that my veterinary team and I deem appropriate. And I want my property—and myself—protected by the law. In that manner, I am a proud pet owner. But I will always refer to my fur babies as my children.

Natasha Feduik is a licensed veterinary technician with Garden City Park Animal Hospital in New York, where she has been practicing for 10 years. Natasha received her degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. Natasha has two dogs, a cat, and three birds at home and is passionate about helping people take the best possible care of their animal companions.

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