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How You Can Help End Animal Cruelty
Shed Light On The Dark Side of Animal Husbandry
You take it in stride because, unfortunately, it happens with some regularity. Besides, you just want to help; not get involved in any confrontations. You hope he’s bluffing but you worry that he’ll make good on the threat.
You're a volunteer at an animal shelter that's at capacity and a call came in from a guy who needs to relinquish a pet.
You told him that the shelter is full and just can't take the animal at this time. "Well, I guess I'll just have to dump it out in the woods," he threatened.
That happened to a volunteer at a local cat shelter and she said it wasn't the first time. I'll bet it won't be the last, either.
I'll also bet shelter personnel everywhere, who read this, are nodding their heads in agreement.
"First is missing cats," she said in an email to me. "People have to be educated about keeping their kitties inside, what with all the predators roaming about these days," she added. Realistically, predation is just one of the concerns that have to be kept in mind.
It's true that coyotes will take cats, as will foxes, fishers, hawks, and at night, owls. But other concerns include traffic, diseases and parasites spread by feral animals, and individuals who will do them harm.
Lost animals brought to a shelter keep workers busy, but it’s relinquishments and especially abandonments, that volunteers get emotional about.
Common reasons for relinquishment include: "moving and can't take the pet with us" or "new landlord won't allow pets."
Some pet owners will make a sincere attempt to find a home, but shelter personnel see all too many relinquishments that are done with a discouragingly casual attitude. The heartbreaking reality is that pets can be "throw-aways" to some people.
"It should be stressed once again the importance of spaying and neutering your furry friend," says the volunteer. While more and more pet owners are having their dogs and cats altered, a surprising number of them don’t.
If more spay/neuters were performed, there'd be fewer animals to have to find homes for, and fewer that would be relinquished or abandoned. Shelters can often help pet owners find low cost spay/neuter programs.
I owned a feed and grain store and often got to see first hand the good, the bad, and the ugly of animal husbandry.
I remember the time in the late 90s that a young girl came into the store after school one afternoon. She was about nine or ten years old and had a young dog in tow, secured with a length of chain around his neck.
She had found him tied to a tree in the woods near home the previous afternoon but assumed that the owner was nearby "bird-watching or something," so she didn't do anything.
When he was still there the next day, she didn't know what to do, so she brought him into the store because this was where her parents came for products and advice. He was adopted by a customer on the spot.
Another time a lady came in to buy a dog collar. She had a six or seven month old chocolate lab in the car and angrily told me what had just happened.
She was driving along a fairly secluded road in our city, some distance behind a car when she saw the unthinkable: the car slowed down just a bit, a door opened, and the dog was tossed out. The car sped off with the dog in pursuit.
The lady, a regular customer with two dogs of her own, took off after them. When the dog gave up the chase, she stopped and picked him up.
She kept the dog. I gave her the collar. He turned out to be a great dog. It makes you wonder how people can do those things.
It’s encouraging that many jurisdictions are now imposing heavy penalties for animal cruelty and abandonment, some to the point of making those actions felonies.
In Massachusetts, where I’m writing from, it can be inconvenient and expensive to abandon an animal.
Conviction for animal abandonment can cost you a year in jail and up to $1,000 fine...per animal.
If more people were aware of that, it might make those inclined to do so think twice about dropping that box of seven kittens on someone’s doorstep.
Some Things You Can Do
There are things you can do to help get that word out. First, find out what the penalties are in your state for animal cruelty and abandonment.
Armed with that information, write letters to the editors of local newspapers encouraging people to do the right thing when it comes to their pets.
If you’ve got a little skill with desktop publishing programs you can make up flyers and ask to leave them on the bulletin boards at veterinary clinics, shelters, supermarkets, pet supplies stores, dog parks and anywhere else that animal owners frequent.
Perhaps you could coordinate a program between your local shelter and council on aging that would make unwanted pets available to seniors.
Many older folks suffer the loss of a beloved pet or are just plain lonely and would love to get a pet, but don’t have the patience to deal with a puppy or kitten.
Information can be a powerful weapon in the fight against cruelty to animals, and it’s within everyone’s power to help get that information out.
© 2012 Bob Bamberg