Pets play an essential role in millions of households, but there is tremendous variation in the relationships that humans have with them. PhD student Zoei Sutton is investigating people’s perceptions of what appropriate treatment of their pets looks like.
“I am hoping this research will also provide insights into the ideas we hold around pets and pet keeping,” Ms Sutton said.
“If we were to think seriously about what benefit our pets gain from our relationships, do we need to challenge conventional ideas around the mutual enjoyment of the human-companion animal relationship? If so, can we imagine another way of relating to companion animals that addresses the questions that might arise about human-animal relationship dynamics?”
Having spent time in shelters and working as a dog groomer, Ms Sutton has always been drawn to animals and has a strong belief that they are an important part of a family.
“Don’t get me wrong, my pets live what I would consider to be a pretty comfortable life, but is there anything actually beneficial in this relationship for them?” she said.
“Thinking about those issues made me really want to delve into the discourse and mechanisms around pet ownership in western society. They have woven together such a delightful narrative that I had never, until this moment, thought about how it might actually be quite problematic from the companion animals’ perspective. They are hidden in plain sight.
“It is quite easy to block out the uglier aspects of pet keeping when you have a bouncing, tail-wagging puppy to distract you.”