By Christie Keith
October 27, 2010
After my rant last week about the term “pet parent,” I got to thinking about how much the language we use to describe our relationship with pets has changed just in my lifetime. And it turned into this week’s column on SFGate.com:
Are you your cat’s owner? Your dog’s mom? Guardian? Caretaker? Pet parent?
There’s been something of a revolution in how we describe the relationship between people and the dogs and cats who share their homes. The once-common term “owner” has fallen out of favor — maybe not so much in newspapers, where it still seems to reign supreme, but in just about every other arena, including the legal one, “owner” is increasingly rare.
The trend against “owner” hit the big time in 2000 when Boulder, Colo., changed its local ordinances to use the term “guardian” instead of owner when describing pets. Boulder was soon joined by the California cities of Berkeley and West Hollywood, then towns in Arizona, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, as well as the entire state of Rhode Island. San Francisco made the switch in 2003.
The movement to call owners “guardians” has not been without controversy. Those who oppose it, notably veterinary organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, worry that it will lead to a rise in lawsuits, particularly in the area of malpractice. Others believe it’s the first step in an animal rights campaign to elevate animals to the status of humans under the law.
Politics and philosophy aside, many pet owners simply don’t like the word. I’m one of them; it sounds legalistic and patronizing. Even if it’s the wave of the future for ordinances and statutes, I’m never going to run into a dog park friend whose name I don’t know at the supermarket and say, “Hi there! You’re Bandit’s guardian, right?”
Read the rest here. And yes, the whole thing was just an excuse to use that picture of me lovin’ on Lita the pitty puppy again!