Are Animal Deaths in Books REALLY Necessary?


I mean, really?!

I don’t know why, but it can seem like the death of animals are even more devastating than the death of people, at least in books and movies and other mediums. Maybe it’s because animals seem more innocent, especially family pets that might look up to humans as companions and people who are supposed to protect and care for them. In fact, I saw an episode of a sitcom where they lampshaded this fact by talking about a family who had been murdered in their house, but the anger and shock was bigger when the person mentioned that the family dog was killed as well (and why, yes, this indeed was a comedy with a bit of a twisted humor), and I feel like that happens a lot. I mean, how many people do you know who hate those ASPCA commercials that have a super-sad song playing over images of sad animals? I know I always change the channel when they’re on because I just cannot handle the sadness!

So, I definitely hate it when the books I’m reading through this in. It’s gotten to the point where I’m worried whenever someone has a pet, especially in paranormal or dystopian books, but contemporary pets aren’t necessarily safe either. I’ve read my fair share of books that have animals dying or getting hurt, all in an attempt to twist my heartstrings. Well, guess what – I’m already a super-sensitive reader, and in most cases, I’m already invested enough that I don’t need an adorable – or even weird-looking, if I’m being fair to all animals – pet dying!

And that’s what it usually feels like to me – a cheap trick to get readers emotionally invested into a story without trying as hard to create a sympathetic protagonist. I mean, who’s more sympathetic – a protagonist who’s trying to save the day or one who’s trying to save the day while dealing with the death of their beloved childhood pet? Maybe I’m just different, but I’m already going to be inclined to care about the latter more, even if I don’t want to.

And that’s my problem – it seems like manipulation, so it can really backfire. Not to mention that it’ll make me sad when I really don’t need to be.

It’s gotten to the point where I wish people would include “ANIMAL DEATH” or something in their reviews and such. I hate spoilers just as much as the next person, but this is one case where I want to be spoiled so that I can avoid the heartache if necessary. As a result, I’m more likely to do the same in my own reviews – but what seems like a helpful warning to me could be a frustrating spoiler for the next person. So, I still try to warn people that I’m about to talk about a spoiler, but what if it’s the kind of spoiler that they would like to know ahead of time. How do I say “you actually want to read this spoiler because it warns about animal death” without spoiling the fact that there’s an animal death?

So, authors, if you could just make animals magically safe from everything, from animal cruelty to simple old age, that would be greatly appreciated. Or am I the only person who freaks out way too much when the adorable kitten introduced at the beginning doesn’t make it to the end?


10 thoughts on “Are Animal Deaths in Books REALLY Necessary?

    1. Oh, I hated that one and completely forgot about it! I know it was supposed to be symbolic, like a bit of Harry’s childhood dying or something, but did Rowling REALLY have to kill off the wonderful owl?!

  1. I often have more trouble with animal death’s in books then people, it just feels so wrong and I definitely hate reading about it. So you’re certianly not the only one has trouble with animal deaths.

    1. I know, it’s kind of weird that it can be such a bigger deal than people’s deaths, even if they have a lot more character depth, but I think lots of people do feel that way. Good to know that I’m not alone in my sadness over it!

    1. Exactly – I might, MIGHT, be able to stomach an animal death if it’s crucial to the plot, but it so rarely is. They’re exploiting the poor fictional animals for sympathy!

  2. I’m actually considering adding a note to one of my future reviews to let readers know that an animal gets hurt in the book. A cat gets hit by a car and luckily doesn’t die, but it upset me enough that I almost stopped reading the book. As a reader, I appreciate the heads up because I’m apparently one of those people who are sensitive to animal deaths or injuries. Especially cats because I’m a crazy cat lady. I don’t even like old war scenes in movies– you know, with the horses leaping over pikes? No way. I close my eyes.

    1. That sounds like a book I read – I would have LOVED getting some kind of warning ahead of time, especially since I have a little bit of experience with that particular tragedy.

      And yes, I hate that so much! I remember I was watching a TV show with my parents that involved flashbacks to WWI, and it included a bunch of horses strewn around a battlefield, apparently dead, and I was so much more distressed about that than the people. My dad didn’t understand why I cared more about the horses than the men, but I pointed out that it’s much easier for an actor to play dead than an animal, and I think that just sums up my feelings so much! In movies and TV shows, how much does the animal really know is going on? And with fictional animals, then they really might be dead, and that adds more sadness! I JUST WANT HAPPY ANIMALS!

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