The answer to the question should be nuanced as there are complex issues to deal with. There is no simple answer and there are important factors to consider. On the one hand, it can benefit a drug addict to take responsibility for caring for a pet cat or dog but on the other hand the animal will be at risk and these factors need to be balanced, one against the other.
My conclusion – before I discuss the matter further – is that a genuine, practicing drug addict should not have pets because the risk to a cat or dog is too high and this outweighs the possible benefits to the drug addict. The conclusion would be different if the individual was in recovery.
Stability and safety
Cats and dogs need and enjoy stability and safety. Cats particularly like rhythms and routines. They like calm and predictability. They need these aspects of their environment. A drug addict’s life can be unstable, unpredictable and their behaviour can be erratic. They are likely to have financial difficulties in servicing their expensive drug habit.
Drug addicts are often unable to discharge their day-to-day responsibilities never mind the responsibilities to look after a cat or dog properly.
The dog or cat’s welfare must be a top priority in the decision.
Ability to provide care
Drug addiction can consume a person in terms of obtaining the money to buy the drugs, in acquiring the drugs and being under the influence of drugs. Is there enough quality time left over for a drug addict to properly care for a cat or dog?
To discharge one’s responsibilities properly when caring for a cat or dog, a reasonable amount of time must be given over to the pet to ensure that they have the chance to interact with their caregiver, to provide mental stimulation, adequate food, water, shelter and security and exercise. And to ensure that they are taken to a veterinarian when required.
Drug addicts are often unable to provide for their own needs and will therefore be unlikely to provide for the needs of their pet to an adequate level. Arguably, it’s unrealistic to expect a drug addict to provide proper care to a cat or dog.
Pets provide support
We know how beneficial pet ownership can be to all kinds of people. There have been many studies on this and all conclude that pet ownership, under the right circumstances and with the right person, is beneficial to the caregiver.
Drug addicts need support. A cat or dog can provide it. This is the opposite side of the coin in the argument.
The emotional support that cats and dogs bring to a person may be very beneficial to a drug addict and may contribute positively to their overall well-being and recovery.
Arguably, introducing a cat or dog into an unstable environment which is the default situation for a drug addict, may trigger further unstable behaviour and exacerbate the challenges of a drug addict faces. This could potentially expose the animal to injury.
A recent story highlights the difficulties of allowing a drug addict to look after a pet. A 41-year-old man living in Oakville, Watertown, USA, has been charged with animal cruelty. He allegedly killed his cat with blunt force trauma and injured his dog in the same way.
The reports are that he attacked his pets in March 2023. Family members report that he allegedly took “mushroom gummies” the day before they were attacked. And that he had been acting irrationally.
A family member found the dead cat, Sophia. It’s believed that the drug addict killed her. And the family dog, Charlie, had cuts on his head and was limping. A pathologist confirmed that the cat died of blunt force trauma.
The man is charged with two counts of first-degree animal cruelty. He was released to appear before the Westbury Superior Court on November 7, 2023.
I don’t know of any laws preventing drug addicts from adopting or keeping pets. There are no rules protecting pets from drug addict abuse or irresponsible cat caregiving. Adopting a cat or dog from a shelter may be prevented by the rules of the shelter but it may be possible to circumvent the rules.
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