Some opinions on children and pets

This was originally written in response to a forum thread. I’d like to archive it here because it expresses my present opinions about the responsibilities involved in having children and keeping pets. If anyone would like to discuss my opinions with me, please leave a comment or send me an email. If anyone would like to make fun of me, please go to hell.

I do not believe pets should be looked at as "children".  They are not human beings.  They have different needs.  When you consider buying a pet, you should consider why you want one.  A guard dog, a cat to kill mice…these are good reasons.  Companionship is also a fine reason, but I believe many people take it a step too far.  If the reason you want a pet is so you have something to baby and spoil, you should not have a pet.
A spoiled animal is only a joy to its owners.  To all others it is a nuisance and sometimes even dangerous.  Pets should know their role in the household.  They should be trained to treat humans with respect.  They should be trained not to jump on people or (in the case of dogs) bark incessantly.  If you have a pet you have to accept the responsibility for its behavior.  You have to take the time to train it properly.
I firmly believe that spoiling a pet affects the animal’s health.  If the animal eats the wrong kind of food, or doesn’t get enough exercise, it is in danger of heart disease, cancer, and other ailments associated with malnutrition, sloth, and obesity.
And spoiling a pet has a definite impact on the animal’s personality.  If the animal doesn’t know who is the boss in the household, it will make itself the boss, and you will be unable to control it when you need to.
The way you treat a human child is extremely different from the way you treat a pet.  Pets have their youth, during which they must be trained, but ultimately the things you expect out of a pet remain the same over time, perhaps decreasing with old age.  Children, on the other hand, are learning continuously for far longer than a pet’s childhood.  Their responsibilities must increase over time, and they must be taught how to surpass the role of child and become adults.  You do not have to teach your dog how to grow up and move out of the house.
Ultimately, I feel that many Americans are failing in the roles of pet-owner and parent, partially because they don’t see a difference between the two, and partially because they do not accept the responsibility of either role.  They want something to love on; they don’t want annoyances.  But annoyances are what they get, and more and more of them crop up when people don’t seriously take on the role of teacher to their children and pets.  Both can be guided, but in different ways.
As far as watching snakes eat live animals, I don’t like it at all.  I think that predatory animals that absolutely must feed on living creatures should not be pets.  The live animals that are fed to the predator do not even have a chance at survival.  They would at least have a fighting chance in the wild.
Raising animals to be fodder for our pets seems like extreme excess.  Pets themselves are an unnecessary luxury.
We already raise animals to be slaughtered for our own food.  I don’t have a problem with this in principle; I love steak as much as the next person.  But I think there should be a limit to our use of the fruits of the land.  Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we need to own it.  And the more responsibility we take for the lives of other creatures, the more risks we take.
Ultimately, to me it all comes down to responsibility.  I feel like our society is sorely lacking that trait.