Ethical Responsibilities Towards Dogs: An Inquiry into the Dog–Human Relationship

  • Kristien Hens


The conditions of life of many companion animals and the rate at which they are surrendered to shelters raise many ethical issues. What duties do we have towards the dogs that live in our society? To suggest answers to these questions, I first give four possible ways of looking at the relationship between man and dog: master–slave, employer–worker, parent–child, and friend–friend. I argue that the morally acceptable relationships are of a different kind but bears family resemblances to the latter three. As dogs are beings with an interest in their wellbeing, society has certain duties towards the dogs, which can be translated in legislation. But human beings also have special responsibilities towards the dogs they take into their care. Such responsibilities entail caring for their emotional and physical welfare, but also ensuring a bond of trust, which should not easily be broken.


Dog Companion animals Environmental ethics Ethics of care 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine, Centre of Biomedical Ethics and LawKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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