Humans have kept domesticated animals for thousands of years, and they provide us with many benefits, like happiness, companionship, and even tools for survival. Most people take the financial cost of owning a pet into consideration before adopting their new family member, but how many people look at the possible growth of their household’s impact on the planet?
Robert and Brenda Vale, 2 New Zealand scientists and authors of Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, claim a medium-sized dog can have a carbon footprint double the size of a “standard size” SUV.
Pets require a lot of resources in order to be happy and healthy animals. These resources include food, water, litter/waste bags, and toys. Cats and dogs are the most common house pets. These two animals are carnivores. More energy and land are required to produce food for carnivores than it does for herbivores or even omnivores. This leads to a larger carbon footprint for carnivores.
Andrew David Thatcher, a population and conservation geneticist and backyard farm advocate, gives 3 steps can help make pet owners more sustainable:
“1. A sustainable pet minimizes resource consumption.”
In other words, don’t be scared to feed your pet some table scraps and other food waste accumulates during the cooking process. Thatcher argues if pets are able to eat more of our food would have gone to waste otherwise, it will require less food manufactured specifically for them. Thatcher says: “A sustainable pet has few specialized food needs, which can be supplied locally, and does not require a huge amount of water or electricity for survival.”
“2. A sustainable pet minimizes environmental damage.”
This means if pets have a negative effect on the environment, they are not good for the environment. Exotic pets and animas are taken from or brought into an environment not suited for them can lead to severe environmental effects. For example, if a species is new to the area, it has no natural predator to worry about, so there is no population control. This can also happen with domestic pets. If your cat likes to go and hunt all of the field mice in the area, there will be no mice to help eat the insects eat the farms’ crops.
“3. A sustainable pet provides a product or service.”
Thatcher said this recommendation will receive “the most criticism.” Most animals fit under this guideline appear to be farm animals. For example, chickens for meat and eggs and cows or goats for milk.
Thatcher finishes this section of his article with “And yes, in some cases, companionship is a service.”