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Treated Worse than the Pet

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"He's had enough of this life, the cell, shovelling manure, slaughter, endless slaughter, and taking care of those pigs. Those prized pigs — pigs given more love by his parents than he ever got."
Memory 3729 of the Hillbilly, Dead by Daylight

This person is at the absolute bottom of the pecking order in their family, to the point that "The Un-Favourite" isn't enough to describe how terribly they're treated. Abuse is part of their daily life, and they barely get fed enough to keep them alive. Why is this happening to them? It doesn't really matter.

One particularly depressing way to express just how much this person's family hates them is for said family members to make a point of giving better treatment to the family pet. It could be a pampered pet that sleeps on silk cushions and eats from crystal dishes, a prize animal regularly groomed to keep up its beautiful appearance, or a valuable work animal fed good food in order to stay healthy and fit. Whatever the animal does, even if it does nothing (actually, especially if it does nothing), the point is that it is valued and loved while this person is not. The abusive person is expressing that they are fully capable of giving whatever is being denied — food, shelter, love — but they choose to lavish it on an animal who won't appreciate it and force the abused person to watch, just to Kick Them While They Are Down. The discrepancy between the animal's treatment and the person's treatment does not need to be particularly large; something as small as two parents giving their dog a pat on the head while denying their child the tiniest scrap of affection is enough.

A more light-hearted version of the trope involves someone (frequently a rich lady with a Mister Muffykins) who spoils their pet way too much to the detriment of either a servant or their spouse, usually a Henpecked Husband.

Unsurprisingly, any usage of this can result in Unfortunate Implications, as this is often used to justify animal cruelty.

The standard version of the trope can be played for the blackest of Black Comedy (and can be part of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood if Played for Laughs), but regardless, the abused party is nearly always The Woobie, as well as a Butt-Monkey and/or Cosmic Plaything. Related to All of the Other Reindeer, Abusive Parents, The Unfavorite, Kick the Dog, Even Evil Has Loved Ones, and frequently overlaps with Denied Food as Punishment. Contrast Bad People Abuse Animals. The abuser may be a villainous Animal Lover or own a Right-Hand Cat. When a human is literally considered a pet and treated as such (usually by an alien race), see Human Pet. If a family treats their members like laboratory animals and experiments on them, see Guinea Pig Family.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: The Uchiyamada family (mother and daughter) seems to give more respect to their dog Eikishi than to the father.
  • Maya's Funeral Procession: Reina is disrespected and treated coldly by her mother, who shows extensive affection to her cat, Alexander.

    Comic Books 
  • In New Super-Man, Kwang-Jo is initially a fervent believer in the ideals of North Korea, having been indoctrinated into the nation's Cult of Personality from an early age. However, after living on little for so long, Kwang-Jo is stunned when the Justice League of China takes him to China to recover, as even the dogs in China eat better than the commonfolk of North Korea.
  • Little Lulu:
    • Gloria occasionally uses the trope to humiliate Tubby. In one story, she asks him to give her dog a bath when he is showing her his new sweater and won't let him go home to change for the task. The result is not pretty, because Wilbur pushes him into the soapy water. Guess who Gloria invites for ice cream and who has to go back home soaked and gets in trouble with his mother?
    • In another story, Tubby escapes from Lulu's babysitting (he asked her to play hide-and-seek, knowing that Lulu would invariably hide in the closet and fall asleep) to take Gloria to a movie. However, Gloria is going with Wilbur and wants Tubby to pay company to her canary, so the latter won't feel lonely. Tubby goes back home, deciding that spending time with Lulu is not that bad, and leaves his glasses with painted eyes watching the bird.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: The titular character frequently treats Jon Arbuckle, perhaps the biggest Butt-Monkey in the funny pages, this way...the joke being that Garfield himself is the pet, and Jon the owner. In one strip, Garfield forces Jon to move from his chair so Pooky—the fat cat's inanimate teddy bear and Companion Cube—can "watch television." Jon gives a brief Aside Glance and sighs "I guess I know where I fall in the order of things."

    Fairy Tales 
  • Brother and Sister: The brother laments to his sister that ever since their mother died, they get beaten every day by their stepmother, and even the dog gets a nice treat every now and then while they get nothing but bread crusts.
  • In The Brothers Grimm's tale "The Table, the Donkey, and the Stick", a tailor asks his oldest son to take their talking (and spoiled rotten) goat to graze at the finest fields. The young man complies and, at the end of the day, he asks the goat if she has eaten enough. She says yes; but when they come back home, the goat tells the tailor his son let her starve, causing the old man to kick him out of the house. The pattern repeats with his other two sons but the tailor realizes he misjudged them after he feeds the goat himself and the greedy animal complains she still hasn't eaten enough. In a fit of rage, the tailor shaves the goat's head and kicks her out after a good beating. The tailor is left alone in the house and longing for his sons to return, which they eventually do after many adventures and live Happily Ever After. Meanwhile, karma bites the goat when she hides inside a fox's hole and gets stung by a bee, causing her to run away in pain.

    Fan Works 
  • A Puppet to Her Fame: Octavia's father tells her a story about how his own father forced him to kill his childhood dog and makes a point of telling her that he loved that dog much more than he loves her.

    Films — Animated 
  • Most villains in the Disney Animated Canon treat their pets better than anyone else, including other animals.
    • Cinderella: One of the many indications of how badly the titular protagonist has it is that her slave duties include feeding and cleaning up after her stepmother's spoiled, pampered, and utterly sadistic pet cat Lucifer. She, on the other hand, has to spend what little downtime she can get in a dingy room in a distant tower with only the resident talking Nice Mice for company.
    • Fantasia 2000: John from Rhapsody in Blue is a cheerful, fun-loving man, but his tyrannical wife drags him around to spend his money on stuff for her equally nasty dog and carry the packages. By a stroke of luck, he finds himself free from both, at least for one night, when the woman is accidentally caught by a construction hook.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): Judge Claude Frollo "adopted" Quasimodo only to atone for having killed his mother. He keeps the poor young man isolated from the world, abuses him verbally, and refuses to save him from being tortured by the crowd as payback for Quasimodo's disobedience. And the way he treats the rest of the Parisian people, especially the Romani, is a lot worse. But when Phoebus steals his horse to flee from being executed, Frollo tells his guards, "Get him! But don't hit my horse!"
    • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ursula is as cruel to animals as she is to people (merfolk and humans), going as far as kicking Max and trying to strangle Scuttle. However, she loves her eels Flotsam and Jetsam, actually lamenting and then going berserk when they are accidentally killed by a stray blast from the trident.
      "Babies! My poor little poopsies!"
    • Peter Pan: A non-villainous example. At the beginning of the film, when Mr. Darling trips over Nana the dog, causing both of them to fall, the rest of the family immediately goes to check on Nana instead of him. After suffering multiple indignities, this is the last straw that makes him lose his temper, making Nana sleep outside while he and Mrs. Darling go out (unknowingly allowing Peter Pan to sneak in and lure the children to Neverland).
    • Sleeping Beauty: Maleficent curses to death an innocent girl, causes suffering to everyone related to the latter and zaps her own minions because of their incompetence but she shows genuine affection to her crow Diablo, scratching his chin and allowing him to perch on her shoulder. She is appalled to the point of covering her mouth when she sees him turned into stone by Merryweather.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie: After Robyn's father disappears on an expedition to Tibet, her guardian, Figg, insists on calling her "orphan", tosses her medallion through the window, forces her to sleep in the attic, and gives Robyn's room to her dog, Ferdinand. The dog ends up so obese that he has to move around on a skateboard.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ben-Hur (1959): Played for Laughs with Sheikh Ilderim who gets furious with his servants if they get careless with his beloved horses.
    "You think you can treat my horses like animals!?!"
  • My Fair Lady: Played for Laughs. After the staff sing that "poor professor Higgins doesn't eat, doesn't touch a crumb", he is seen finishing his tea while he insists to an exhausted, hungry Eliza to repeat her lesson again. Nearby, Colonel Pickering is stuffing his face with pastries; kindly, he asks Higgins if he tried the plain cake and gives him looks insinuating he should let Eliza eat, but in vain. After finishing, the Colonel tries again.
    Colonel: By Jove, Higgins, that was a glorious tea. Why don't you finish the last strawberry tart? I couldn't eat another thing.
    Higgins: Oh, I couldn't touch it.
    Colonel: Shame to waste it.
    Higgins: Oh, it won't be wasted. [Eliza looks up eagerly] I know somebody who's immensely fond of strawberry tarts.
    [He picks up the tart and starts turning around, apparently towards a radiant Eliza. He walks in front of her and crosses the room to give the last tart to his myna.]
  • Return of the Jedi: After getting captured by Jabba the Hutt, Princess Leia is kept on a short leash throughout her enslavement while Salacious B. Crumb, Jabba's Kowakian monkey lizard, is able to wander freely.
  • Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky: The prison warden and superintendent treat the prisoners atrociously, killing random prisoners in ridiculously graphic ways for the pettiest of reasons and allowing their lieutenants to maim and torture anyone in their way just for fun. When a prisoner complains that "even the dogs get steak" and is overheard by the Warden, the Warden then shoves the prisoner's hand into a meat grinder while taunting him that "he can provide the extra meat".
  • The Ugly Dachshund: Downplayed and Played for Laughs. Although the Garrisons love each other, Fran frequently bosses around Mark, her husband, and prioritizes her four dachshunds over him. The fact that she made him return Brutus, the Great Dane puppy that Mark wanted to adopt, just increases his resentment, but he feels guilty when she complains that he is "distant". However, when Mark makes reservations at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday, Fran makes him cancel to throw a small "party" at home and receive lame gifts "from the daschies", including a bronzed bone and a music box that plays "Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone". Mark finally snaps and gives her a "Reason You Suck" Speech about her inconsideration and how tired he is from having her dogs getting in his way. Subverted when Mark finds that Fran has brought Brutus back as her birthday gift, but he has to apologize to her and the two conclude that he is the selfish one, not her. Meanwhile, Fran's precious little devils devour Mark's birthday cake.

    Jokes 
  • A man asks his wife if he really treats her like a dog. She says, "Worse! The dog has a fur coat."

    Literature 
  • In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain puts in a note that if a man named Harbison owned a slave named Bull, his name would be "Harbison's Bull," but Harbison's son or dog would be "Bull Harbison."
  • Artemis Fowl: In The Opal Deception, Opal's airplane crashes in the viñedo of an old Italian woman. To avoid being found by LEP agents, the villainous pixie uses her last bit of power to mesmerize the woman into thinking that she is her daughter, Belinda. A big mistake, for Opal's "mother" forces her into slaving on the viñedo with a spade too big for a pixie, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner, under threat of locking her away "with a pile of potatoes to peel and none to eat". Among her endless tasks, Opal has to clean the pigs' place. She is almost happy when the fairy police finally find her.
  • The Canterbury Tales: An Older Than Print example is the Prioress. She is said to weep whenever one of her little dogs gets injured, but she is extremely anti-Semitic, to the point where her tale is a blood libel about a seven-year-old kid being killed by Jews. The Canterbury Tales was written during a time when, as some scholars have noted, people writing of virtuous characters would commonly start with their good manners and love of animals and then move into their charity toward the poor. Chaucer makes you expect that he'll start talking about her charity, and then he doesn't — it's pretty clear she's nicer to animals than people.
  • Discworld:
    • Lord Vetinari does this to himself. He's satisfied eating a crust of dried bread and some boiled water for supper, while The Truth shows that his dog Wuffles gets finest steak.
    • Moist von Lipwig's grandfather bred high-quality dogs. He and Moist ate organs while the dogs ate the best part of the pig.
  • Don't be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart is a memoir written by Honduran human rights activist Elvia Alvarado. While working as a maid in the capital to support her children, the family she worked for gave her beans, tortillas, and rice, while their dog ate meat regularly. Since she was made to eat in the kitchen with the dog while the family ate in a big dining room, sometimes she would secretly switch the dog's food with hers, while wishing she could wrap it up and send it to her children.
    My boss would give me meat, tomatoes, and oil and tell me to cook it up for the dog. And every time I fed that dog, I'd think of my own children. My children never got to eat meat. The $15 a month I sent them was hardly enough to buy beans and corn. But that dog got meat almost every day.
  • The Labours of Hercules: In "The Nemean Lion", Poirot investigates the kidnapping of a Pekingese dog belonging to the wife of a businessman, after said dog was returned for a ransom. Mrs. Samuelson, the distressed moth... err, owner, treats her husband as a nuisance and is verbally abusive of Amy Carnaby, her companion, although the latter is still suffering from BSOD because the dog was kidnapped when she was walking with it. It is a sham: Ms. Carnaby abducted the pet, as part of a kidnapping ring she created with other women exploited by petty rich women that treat their dogs better than people. Poirot sympathizes with her, especially because she uses the ransom money to support her invalid sister; he not only makes a donation to them but promises to convince the Samuelsons to drop the charges, as long as Ms. Carnaby returns their money and stops the scheme.
  • At the end of Peter Pan, Mr Darling is treated worse than the dog Nana (whom he had previously ordered out of the house), and is made to sleep in Nana's kennel.
  • Lannie from the Point Horror novel Freeze Tag is ignored by both her mother and stepfather who dote on the family dog, with her father and stepmother not being any better. When Lannie freezes the dog due because her parents care more about him than her, said parents only prove her point by panicking and calling the vet, whereas they couldn't give too hoots about what happens to her.
  • It's downplayed in The Film of the Book, but in The Princess Bride, Buttercup is much nicer to her horse, Horse, than she is to pretty much any other living creature — most especially Westley, the Farm Boy who cares for Horse and for her father's cows. At one point she orders Westley to stay up all night cleaning Horse's stable and polishing his saddle.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The Dothraki are so misogynistic that in some respects, horses are considered of more value than women. A khal might allow his bloodriders to have sex with or rape his wife, but he would never allow them to ride his horse.
  • Played for Drama in the Classic Singapore Horror Stories short "Stepchild", which revolves around the titular character, a Singaporean stepchild, adopted into a wealthy Indonesian family who migrated into the country because of their superstitious father wanting a "lucky offspring". The entire Indonesian family, including the teenage protagonist Katherine, ostracizes the stepchild, insults him behind the back, and treats him lower than the family's terrier, Romeo. This leads to the stepchild plotting revenge by secretly feeding Romeo pieces of meat with nails and shards of glass hidden inside, causing severe agony in the poor pet until it needs to be euthanized.
  • The Tale of Despereaux: Mig is a slave to a man she is forced to call Uncle. On her seventh birthday, he tells her that he wishes every night he could have back the hen he traded for her because it was a good egg-layer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Already The Unfavorite compared to her brother Dennis, Dee's mother treats Dee even worse than her little dog. Her first comment is to mock Dee for being fat (she's extremely skinny), doesn't ask about why Dee is wearing a neck brace (from the previous episode's shenanigans), and then steals the food Dee is actively eating to feed her dog.
  • It's Me or the Dog: In "The Dogs That Walk Their Owners”, Victoria visited a family where the parents would spend hours every night preparing elaborate meals for their dogs Toadie and Smartie — a typical dinner for them was roast lamb, carrots, broccoli, and pasta. Meanwhile, they and their son survived on cheap pre-prepared meals like frozen lasagna. Victoria pointed out how ridiculous this was and had the family prepare dinner for themselves and sit down to eat, then feed the dogs regular dog food, which they happily ate.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In "Bully", Annette Cole, the CEO of Luscious Grape wine, abuses her employees at Luscious Grape despite claiming to treat them as family. When the truth comes out, she shoots herself in the head at a press conference, leaving her employees nothing while giving her entire estate and all her money to her dog.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer and Lister are ranked below the scutters, small maintenance robots used to maintain spaceships and off-world colonies.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody sees London taking advantage of the fact that Maddie was forced to borrow money from her to treat Maddie like a slave, enraging Esteban.
    Esteban: London is treating you like a dog!
    Maddie: (our of breath) Oh, I wish! No, her dog's upstairs in the hot tub!
  • White House Farm: Jeremy angrily claims that his late mother June loved her dog more than him; it's unclear how true this is as while his mother is clearly fond of the dog we don't see enough of Jeremy and June's interactions prior to her murder, though it is indicated their relationship was strained. Jeremy is bitter enough over it that when the dog comes into his care, he has him put to sleep rather than giving it away, appalling his cousin.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Discussed in The Bible. In the parable of the prodigal son, after taking his share of the inheritance and ditching his family, he blows through his newfound wealth and ends up a starving farmhand. He observes that the pigs he tends are fed better than him, and returns home because he knows his father would never treat a servant that poorly.

    Video Games 
  • Dead by Daylight: The Hillbilly's parents doted on their prize pigs while abusing their deformed son and keeping him isolated in a single room his entire life, feeding him through a hole in the wall. They even named the pigs Duke and Donny, while their son was only ever called Boy.
  • King's Quest III: The protagonist, Gwydion a.k.a. Prince Alexander of Daventry, is a slave to the evil sorcerer Manannan who will punish for any arbitrary reason or outright kill. He has a black cat who the wizard values more and hates Gwydion as much who would trip him down the staircase.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: The titular Archer was neglected and berated by his mother throughout his life. In contrast, her dog Duchess was treated as if she were Malory's child. Malory was more likely to remember her dog's birthday than her own son's.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Downplayed. Aang sees an Earth Kingdom herborist after a medicine for Sokka and Katara's flu, but the old woman forces him to wait while she smashes something in a bowl and rants about the issues caused by war. When the decoction is finally ready, Aang impatiently reaches out, just to have his hand slapped by the angry woman: that's not medicine, that's her cat's dinner! Only then, she tells him that toxines expelled by frozen frogs will heal the flu. If Aang wasn't in such a hurry, he would have noticed that the herborist was already making the decoction when he came, but she could have told him immediately about the frogs, instead of wasting his time.
  • Central Park: Helen, Bitsy Brandenham's personal maid who has been with her for many years, despises her pampered pooch Shampagne, as she sees the dog as her only competition for Bitsy's inheritance when she dies. While Helen puts up with all of Bitsy's demands 24/7, Shampagne is regularly treated to spa days and fine food (though the dog himself would rather be a regular dog, living with young Cole Tillerman).
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Ma Bagge tends to be nicer to Courage the dog than she is to her son Eustace, who is already her least favorite son compared to Horst. Though she becomes more of a Tsundere to Courage in her later appearances.
  • Craig of the Creek: Jason's stepmother cares more about her chihuahuas than him.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Timmy's 2-D House of Horror", Vicky's house is destroyed, so she and her family move in to the Turners' house. They get to sleep in Timmy's room, including Doidle the dog, while Timmy is forced to sleep in Doidle's doghouse in the freezing rain.
  • Family Guy:
    • Poor Meg Griffin is one of the most infamous examples of this trope — never mind that the dog, Brian, can talk and is intelligent enough to be treated as human by the rest of the world. Meg is constantly the butt of the family's jokes, told to shut up, and farted on, and that's on a GOOD day.
    • In The Simpsons Guy, it's shown that Peter considers both his children Meg and Chris less important than their dog Brian. That's how he introduces his family to Homer Simpson:
      Peter: We're the Griffins. Peter, Lois, Stewie, and then, uh, you know, the others. Brian, I guess.
  • Inside Job (2021): Brett is considered so useless in his family that according to "Brettwork", his family, who ranks their family members, ranks the dog over him.
  • Subverted in the King of the Hill episode "Hank's Choice" where Bobby suddenly develops an allergy to the family's pampered bloodhound Ladybird, and Hank builds a "doghouse" in the form of an elaborate clubhouse with windows, a skylight, exterior lighting, gutters, a picket fence, and radiant heating in the floor. When Ladybird refuses to use it, Hank offers it to Bobby with a cable TV hook-up, a mini-fridge, and a cordless phone. Bobby falls in love with the place after it's basically become his own personal apartment and refuses to leave, but Hank's neighbors just see that he's sent his son to live in a doghouse and he becomes a laughingstock.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Heinz Doofenshmirtz's father loved the family dog more than him and called it "Only Son."
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Before meeting Entrapta, the only being to whom Hordak shows some respect and affection is Imp, his artificial spy and pet. Although he is occasionally irritated by the little creature's provocations, Hordak allows him to perch upon his shoulder or climb on his lap and scratches his chin while he is yelling at Shadow Weaver or Catra.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for Laughs in "The Springfield Files" when after Bart mocks Homer over the latter seeing an alien and the rest of the family show disbelief or disinterest in his story, Homer bemoans being mocked on his birthday, which also happens to be Santa's Little Helper's birthday. This causes the family to happily clamor around the dog while ignoring Homer and he sulks in the background while muttering "lousy, lovable dog!"
    • Played for Drama in "The Crepes of Wrath" where foreign exchange student Bart is routinely abused, ignored, and overworked by Cesar and Ugolin, his "caretakers" who are in reality criminals who make wine laced with antifreeze and their pet donkey is treated more favorably, complete with better living conditions and being given Bart's hat to wear.
    • Played for Laughs in "My Fair Laddy" when Groundskeeper Willie mentions that his grandfather used to be sent down to mines to make sure it was safe for the canaries.
  • The Super 6: In one episode, the Brothers Matzoriley must solve the disappearance of a rich lady's dog. Said lady wasn't that fond of her Henpecked Husband, going as far as telling him to get up from his armchair, so her precious dog could sit there. Unsurprisingly, he is the kidnapper.

    Real Life 
  • In 2018, Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves and their six adopted children by driving their van over a 100-foot cliff. Their computer history showed that they had searched for no-kill shelters to place their dogs in before committing the crime; the animals were discovered unharmed inside the home.
  • In 2022, a Reddit user posted on r/AmITheAsshole, asking if she was in the wrong because she had hidden her boyfriend's dog to prove a point. She felt upset because her boyfriend lavished more affection on his dog than their 3-year-old son, and didn't seem to care when their son got lost one day. So she took the dog, gave her to a trusted neighbor to watch, and left the back door open. Her boyfriend came home, noticed the open door, panicked, and ran out while screaming that his dog could have gotten hurt or killed out there. She revealed that the dog was safe, and then broke up with him. (The commenters declared her to be Not The Asshole.)
  • This story from FMyLife.com reads, "Today, my mom cooked her dog some potatoes, carrots, beef, rice and peas. She cooks better food for her dog than she will for our family."
  • On 1932, Muhammad Mahabat Khan III, nawab of Junagadh, spent on the "marriage" of two of his favourite dogs enough to feed 12,000 of his 62,200 subjects for a year. A famous dog-lover, his favourite pets had their own rooms with servants, telephones and electricity, and the state spent more on the nawab's kennels than on education.
  • Leona Helmsley, a businesswoman called the "Queen of Mean," left $12 million to her dog when she died (which was reduced to $2 million, as excessive to fulfill its purpose), while two of her grandchildren got nothing.

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