British author Jilly Cooper has inadvertently sparked a heated debate about the ethics of elderly pet ownership after telling a newspaper that she planned on getting another dog after the death of her beloved greyhound Bluebell.

The 84-year-old romance writer told The Daily Express that she was “heartbroken” after losing Bluebell, and hoped to adopt another dog after finishing her next book. This seemingly innocuous statement caused enough controversy to warrant its own segment on Good Morning Britain, where columnist Lara Asprey argued that older people don’t have the energy to look after dogs. “ I think you have to be a bit careful about taking a dog on when you’re in the later stages of life. You have to be considerate to the dog. It needs to have a home it can live in for its life too,” Asprey argued.

She continued, “As you get older, things start to get a bit creakier, and although I understand they can be good exercise and dogs can be amazing companions, I don’t see why they need to have a dog as a sole responsibility.

“Otherwise I feel it’s not really fair on the dog. It’s a bit selfish.”

The show’s hosts then invited 79-year-old newsreader Jan Leeming onto the show, who argued that pets can be an important lifeline for the elderly. Leeming said, “I am 80 in January and I have always had dogs and I have always tailored my dogs to my ability.”

She also responded to Asprey’s claims that elderly pet ownership was selfish, saying, “I think that’s being a bit narrow. I had a friend who died at 103 and she always had Shelties and at the age of 60 she said, ‘I am too old to have anymore’.

“Well just think, she could have had two more lots of dogs and given them a loving home.”

Viewers took to social media to express outrage at Asprey’s views, and many shared their own stories of elderly relatives enjoying time with their furry friends. One user said, “Absolute rubbish @GMB If it wasn’t for the fact that my elderly Dad had a dog after my mum passed away his life would have been much shorter, it gave him the motivation to get out every day & get on with his life,” while another said, “It’s much better an older person who is home all day than these people getting a dog and leaving it locked, alone in the house for 10 hours a day”.

An animal rescue based in Wales said, “Age is not a barrier, key is matching up the right home with the right dog. Fostering is also an option for those older dog lovers who need additional support as the rescue will provide food, vet bills etc.”

Image: Jamie Grill

This article first appeared on Over60.