Oswald Winograd having a confab with two neighbor dogs.

In addition to banning continuous chaining, a proposed law in Germany will require people to take their dogs out at least twice a day for walks, a run around the park, or some other outside time.

The proposal has largely been met with derision and claims of “nanny state” micromanaging. I think such scoffing misses the point. In addition to exercise, such laws offer an important psychological benefit. Of course, the devil is in the details, but here’s why, in general, these kinds of laws should be supported.

Animals, like human infants, arrive in the world ready to learn, ready to explore, ready to figure out the rules, ready to find their place.” When we fail to provide those opportunities, we harm them.

Unfortunately, as a society, we have yet to legally recognize and appreciate the emotional and psychological needs of animals. As a result, while our laws demand that an animal kept as a companion receive the basic requirements of sustenance and shelter, there is currently no way to guarantee that an animal receive love and attention. No U.S. state has an animal cruelty statutes that acknowledge emotional neglect or suffering. Yet, for social animals, the absence of attention and affection is tragic.

On behalf of children, we have, for example, banned child labor, eliminated corporal punishment in our schools, and increased protections in other ways through our legal system. Moreover, we have sought to find the necessary balance between the demands we make upon them for their own good, such as education, with their inherent needs for play and other forms of recreation. There is no reason to assume that our relationship with animal companions, likewise predicated upon love, affection, and the desire to both provide protection and maximize well-being, cannot evolve in the same manner. In fact, there is every reason to believe that we can.

Several years ago, the Swiss government passed animal welfare legislation that took a big step in addressing this problem. Swiss law mandates that, “Animals of gregarious species shall be allowed adequate social contacts with animals of their own species.” According to Swiss Info, when it comes to social animals, like guinea pigs, “People will no longer be allowed to keep only one…”: Guinea pigs and other social animals must be kept in pairs to ensure that they do not get lonely and suffer psychologically.

And while Swiss officials indicated that they “are not going to have the police searching individual households to see how your pussy-cat is doing and checking [that] there are two of them,” such laws do codify protections for the emotional well-being of animal companions and set a standard of what we owe those animals as a society.

Animals offer people undying loyalty and unconditional love. In return, they ask for nothing more than a sense of belonging. The realities of modern life often mean that animals kept as companions spend large parts of the day alone. Depending on the species, many of these animals receive plenty of love and attention and are happy and healthy. But for those who need more, who need to explore the sun, other dogs/animals, other people, smells, and more, it is nice to know that lawmakers in other parts of the world find it important enough to enshrine into law.

————-

Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.