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Would You Choose a Pet Over a Child?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2014 Jun 13

They call them “fur babies,” and many couples in the U.S. are opting for them. One headline aptly described it this way: “Americans are having dogs instead of babies.”

The United States isn’t unique in this trend. We’ve seen for a while now how birth rates worldwide are plummeting and the number of pets are increasing. Japan, a country where sales of adult diapers outnumber those of baby diapers, has a population of more than 22 million pampered pets versus only 16.6 million children under 15.

Why parent a pet?

I certainly understand why people love their pets. God created animals, and the benefits they give us –love, company and protection – are blessings. Indeed, the Bible says one of the signs of a righteous man is that he takes care of his animals (Proverbs 12:10). As a young boy, I was very fond of two dogs – a pug named Sir George and a Great Dane named Duke. They were both my sister’s dogs, but I loved them.

But what we’re seeing goes beyond a person loving and caring for an animal they own. It’s a combination of the growing trend of intentional childlessness among couples – and then satiating the God-given drive to nurture with a pet.

Why would some couples make this choice? The New York Post recently interviewed women who had chosen a dog over motherhood, and they cited factors such as convenience and freedom. One said, “I’d rather have a dog over a kid … It’s just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out.” She also said her dog brings her more joy than a child.

Right … or wrong?

Pope Francis most recently brought these trends to the news cycle when he warned couples not to substitute pets for children.

It seems almost silly to have to make the case for choosing children over pets, but we live in a time of increasingly divergent worldviews.

For example, Christians see marriage differently than the world does. While culture often views marriage as an institution designed to bring adults happiness, we see it as an earthly reflection of the Godhead and a union that gives stability to children.

Counter-cultural wisdom

Certainly, these types of ideas run against what the wisdom of the world offers. But we should be comfortable with being countercultural. This is why the apostle Paul stated that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19).

Focus on the Family is launching “The Family Project,” a 12-lesson DVD small group curriculum that helps explains why marriage and family matter so much to God. This effort is the follow-up to our movie, “Irreplaceable,” that explored the relevance of family in today’s culture.

In this video, I talk a bit about “The Family Project,” and why it’s an undertaking so near to our hearts.

Before I sign off, I want to ask you: what do you think of this trend to choose a pet over a child? Is it simply a matter of preference, or do you think there’s a “right or wrong” way to think about this option?

Focus on the Family has helped to strengthen the faith of more than 1.4 million people.  Partner with our ministry and join Friends of Family to help us ensure that families have access to Christian counsel and Bible-based resources year-round.

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