Originally posted, with a picture and links, on Flayrah: [link]
My first story for Flayrah was about Oscar, the first cat to get prosthetic limbs. Only one line – it was before Newsbytes were added – but the feline Oscar remains a good role model. (Unfortunately, the human Oscar, my fellow South African, multiple gold-winning Paralympian and first amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics, dropped the ball in that regard.)
There are many other examples of animals with prosthetics. Perhaps the most notable would be Winter, a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. In 2011, her story was adapted into a feature film, Dolphin Tail. Moving from a cat to her demonstrates the breadth of animals that these tools and surgeries are helping.
Many more have been organised into lists with decidedly unoriginal names. Winter and Oscar both appear in these lists, accompanied by a host of other species: The heartbreaking stories behind 5 adorable bionic dogs, 8 heartbreaking stories of animal prosthetics, 9 inspiring animals that use prosthetics and 10 awe-inspiring animals with prosthetics.
This is just one aspect of the medical care that is now available to non-human animals, usually trickling down from care developed for humans. For example, last month saw the first occurrence of brain surgery performed on a bear, by a South African veterinary surgeon, and attempts to cure blindness in humans led to stem cell therapy that have cured blindness in Lancelot, a dog.
While none of these techniques were developed specifically for other animals, I think that we bother to perform them at all is a good sign. Society is becoming more caring, and animals are gaining access to nearly all the medical treatment that we ourselves have. At the same time, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is moving to retire research chimpanzees. Perhaps this is all evidence of Peter Singer's Expanding Circle:
"The circle of altruism has broadened from the family and tribe to the nation and race, and we are beginning to recognize that our obligations extend to all human beings. The process should not stop there. In my earlier book, Animal Liberation, I showed that it is as arbitrary to restrict the principle of equal consideration of interests to our own species as it would be to restrict it to our own race. The only justifiable stopping place for the expansion of altruism is the point at which all whose welfare can be affected by our actions are included within the circle of altruism. (source)"