By Diana Guerrero


As we enter into a more global awareness, day to day contact with other cultures is made easier. Through our technology we will deal more and more with cultural differences across the globe. Although we are aware of these differences, between the various countries and people within them, those animal cultures here in our daily lives and in those of our foreign neighbors get overlooked.

Do animals have cultural differences? It would appear the answer is yes, in several different ways. Some are related to the human aspect of our relationships with animals, while others seem to be within the animals themselves.

Taking a closer look into this we can see that the treatment and understanding of animals varies from country to country. In some areas, an animal can be considered sacred while in another region that same animal can be a consumable product or producer of one.

Our animal companions here in the USA are viewed as a food source by some other cultures. In some third-world countries, even some of the most endangered species are smoked and eaten by people, who view them only as a food source or as a commodity. Unfortunately, people foreign to those countries fail to understand the peril and poverty that these humans face day to day; their choice of food items are not usually based on anything other than survival.

Our pets can reflect differences in how each country reacts to them. Here in the USA, well-behaved dogs are not allowed in many areas, and even our well-groomed and mannered mutts cannot accompany us into restaurants unless they have a service dog title. Even then, there are frowns and scowls to greet them. This is ironic since there is much more risk from unclean humans passing disease or creating a scene than there is from a well-mannered and groomed critter.

However, if you fancy a feast with your canine companion, Japan leads the rest of the world with some of their novelty businesses geared toward family critters. Canine restaurants and special catering geared to the family animal have hit the news internationally. Each weekend many Japanese families are found out in the parks with their critters enjoying some social time. It is interesting that you donšt see too many problems of dogs attacking dogs or misbehavior. It is not acceptable, people are responsible pet owners and most everyone toes the line.

When I was in the UK, dogs could accompany their family into the pubs and spend social time with other people and dogs. This beats being left home alone! Many pets there will travel with their owners and most are very well-behaved. It would appear that the structure of the English also helps to set proper guidelines for pets. They also recognize the need for professional help when those pets are not well-behaved. Each year, more than 5,000 pets will visit one of the more prominent behavior specialists there to solve phobias or other unacceptable behavior.

Here in the USA there is a wide range of pets and associated views and problems. Many animals are allowed to roam unattended ‹ much to the distraught of their neighbors. Dogs and cats can attack others while the owners watch or allow it by default. People also irresponsibly breed animals for profit and neglect the individual needs of the animal; more situations like these contribute to the pet overpopulation problem of around 20 million animals here in the USA alone.

On the other side of the spectrum, pampered pets receive their own rooms, seatbelts, and a variety of gourmet foods. Some go to the groomer in a limousine, while others will go to a sperm bank or fertility clinic for evaluation. Many go to school, social classes, and special events; it does not seem to end! Beyond just being the family animal, pets are the companion choice of many single people and of those not ready to start a family, or those not wanting to have kids at all.

We, as humans, can guide our cultural use of animals to shape and mold their behavior. Unfortunately, many do not view the animals we are responsible for realistically. Too many people will not commit to long-term ownership or coaching to create a well-balanced pet. Sometimes this is seen with over indulgence, while other times it is more like sheer neglect. How can we do this?

Animals also have their own cultural rules; this can vary in each breed or species. These traits often dictate how they will behave and react in many situations. If we learn what the proper rules for them are, and integrate acceptable behavior roles from a human perspective, by teaching the rules to those animals, we are well on the way to having a culturally fit animal for any human culture.

This is not to say that animals are not okay as they are! However, we have altered their genetic code, destroyed their habitats, and infringed on their day-to-day activities to the point where we need to create not only a proper environment, but also a well-adjusted animal.

If we pay attention to the specific needs of each breed or species and learn from them, we can become better, and more compassionate, accountable humans. We can teach animals proper manners for living with us by giving them good schooling, lavishing them with love, and respecting them for what they truly are; however, they are really the teachers and the cultural differences they show us are something we should strive to understand and honor.

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