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Captive Companions






Animals in Classrooms



Our Entertainment



Nemo: How many times have you tried to get out?

Gill: Ahhh, I've lost count. Fish aren't meant to be in a tank, kid. It does things to you.

— Finding Nemo



A robin redbreast in a cage

Puts all heaven in a rage.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Just for a moment, imagine that people have grabbed you and put you into a cage. Really try to experience being in there. How does it feel?


Imagine being in that cage, helpless, for the rest of your life. Try to experience that feeling.


Now try to imagine the feelings of a bird or a hamster in a cage or a fish or turtle in a tank. These are animals who have been denied a life of freedom in their natural environment. They are prisoners not because they have committed crimes but simply to provide us with entertainment.


We are so accustomed to seeing these animals in captivity in our homes that we no longer consider how abnormal it is for them. We may even feel that we love our goldfish, our parrot, our gerbil. She is happy to live with us, we say. The bird may be released from her cage to hop onto our shoulder. She may eat from our hand or our plate. But remember that animals experience the same emotions humans do. So picture what it would really be like to be a bird who can never fly through the sky with other birds. Imagine being a fish who can only circle around and around and around in a tank forever.


Millions — that's millions — of healthy dogs and cats are killed in pounds and shelters every year only because they don't have homes. If you would like to share your life with a companion animal, consider rescuing one of these dogs or cats. Please don't go to a store to buy a living being whose home will be a cage or a tank. Each person who does so is responsible for the ongoing trade in these unfortunate animals.


In this section, we look at several kinds of animals who typically live as captives in our houses. We discuss the traumatic and often illegal processes by which many of these animals are captured in the wild and transported from one country to another, large numbers dying on the way.


Note: Of course, all companion animals, including our dogs and cats, are in a sense captive. When we rescue dogs or cats, we have a responsibility to allow them to live their lives with as much freedom as possible without endangering them. If we lock a dog in a cage for the day while we go off to work or keep him chained in the yard for long periods of time, we are not respecting his needs. We discuss these and related issues in Adopting a Cat or Dog.