Put Doggie Couture Out of its Misery

When I look into the eyes of a dog dressed in a princess outfit complete with tiara and who calls Paris Hilton’s handbag a home, all I can think of is how desperately that animal must seek the sweet embrace of death. Sure, it is supremely groomed and fed on a budget the common working-class citizen cannot make in a year, but money never brings happiness. A dressed pooch is essentially the most miserable breed of dog. Finally, our British friends across the pond are setting an excellent example for how to conduct ourselves.
American pet culture has gone to incredible extremes. Millions of American families have pets, and the industry that capitalizes on this makes large profits with PETCO, Pet Extreme, Pets R Us and PetSmart — it seems impossible to escape the pet suppliers. Animals need food, but my parents’ dogs have a wider supply of toys than I ever did as a child. Currently, high-end fashion shows starring four-legged models are produced year-round. At least they are not anorexic. A place in Newport Beach will even do your dog’s nails. Rapper DMX even has his own line of pit bull clothes.
Back in the rejected mother country, England, the rules are a bit different. According to the law, pet owners have a duty to ensure that their pets are able to express natural behavior. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken this duty to include not dressing your pet in ludicrous clothing. They believe that dressing your pet in booties and gowns amounts to preventing your pet from being an animal, and doing so could mean you will face prosecution. We should follow suit.
There are few ways to argue against this. First, one skeptical person may argue that the dogs love being dressed up and it is none of the government’s business what a person and a dog do behind closed doors. It is a matter of privacy and personal taste.
The fact is that all animals hate being restricted. Dressing up an animal is difficult because they hate the activity. It prevents a dog from having complete freedom of movement and being comfortable.
As for privacy, the government has a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves. This case should apply unquestionably to all people and toward animals, within reason. This case falls within that scope. We are not talking about an unwarranted wire-tap; the government would just be telling people to stop picking on their dogs.
Perhaps one would argue that dogs are just animals and who cares what we do to them. After all, we slaughter thousands of cows a day. Given this context, a little game of dress-up hardly seems like a concern. People should be allowed to do callously what they want and we can treat them like any other animal.
However, dogs are undoubtedly of higher social value than cows. Bovines do not decrease depressive symptoms, reduce stress or increase a human’s lifespan. Dogs can perform all of these tasks for loving owners. This gives us a duty to protect them. Since the dawn of time, dogs have stood at the side of man; perhaps we can return the favor. Also, not dressing up dogs both treats them with increased respect and increases the division between man and animal.
The term “animal” is also too general and we cannot treat all of those within its scope as animals. Technically speaking, man is an animal and is popularly referred to as the most dangerous of them. We cannot treat all animals the same because that would mean treating parrots like Alex, the now-deceased African Gray Parrot, the same way we treat chickens. Alex had a measurable intelligence equivalent to a human child. Look him up at YouTube.com and tell me we should treat all animals the same. He even developed enough intelligence to be a smart ass.
Dressing-up animals makes them feel uncomfortable and miserable. There are special occasions for short-haired dogs in cold weather or rain, but for the most part animals should be allowed to remain free and mobile.
Remember your favorite pet of your childhood. He or she would not have wanted to be wrapped in human clothing. Preventing someone from doing this does not trample his or her rights; it is only a simple matter of not dressing up your dog. Enacting a law to prevent people from dressing their pets is an appropriate way of preventing animal cruelty.

Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.edu.