Although it may sound strange, a small sect of pet owners across the country have chosen to pierce, tattoo or otherwise modify their animals – to the great dismay of many people across the country. This is exactly why states such as New York have recently moved to make the act illegal.
In March of 2014, a photo depicting a dog with a sailor-inspired tattoo went viral on the internet, prompting swift outrage from pet parents and a call for states to outlaw the practice. New York did just that and many activists are now calling for more states to follow suit.
The Issue of Cruelty
While many pet owners find the idea of tattooing their animal unfathomable, others believe that the practice is a unique form of decoration and should not be considered animal abuse. The majority of pet-lovers do not agree, however. According to a spokesperson from the ASPCA, “The tattooing of an animal for the selfish joy and entertainment of its owner, without any regard for the well-being of the animal, is not something the ASPCA supports."
The objection to pet tattoos lies largely in the issue of choice. Tattoos and piercings are painful and, while humans can understand, rationalize and consent to that pain, animals cannot. The fact that the animals are typically sedated during the process does not make much difference for those who believe the practice should be banned. In fact, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that the practice of tattooing and piercing pets is “...animal abuse. Pure and simple.”
The general consensus among animal lovers is that a painful process done for purely aesthetic purposes is needless on companion animals and should not be undertaken solely for the enjoyment of the owner. It is important to distinguish here, between elective tattoos and veterinarian-administered tattoos that consist of numbers and assist in the location of lost pets. While vet-administered tattoos serve an important purpose, decorative tattoos do not, and many people argue that if pet owners would not tattoo their unconscious babies, they should not do it to their pets.
What States Should Do
While many states, such as North Carolina, have animal cruelty laws in place that make it illegal to “intentionally cause an animal unjustifiable pain or suffering”, New York is the only state to make tattooing illegal explicitly. Animal cruelty laws are helpful and certainly help to discourage certain behaviors, but there are often loopholes that people can find their way through. One such case was Ernesto Rodriguez, a tattoo artist in North Carolina who subjected his two companion dogs to belly tattoos “in case they got lost”. Despite the state’s animal cruelty laws, no charges were filed. Because of cases like this, many activists are calling for more states to take action against pet tattoos. In addition to closing troublesome loopholes, deeming pet tattoos illegal in additional states would protect pets from needless body modification and undue pain, thus ensuring a better life for animals across the country.