I recently realized how many people I know who have chosen not to have children but adopt pets instead. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a committed human relationship or not, they love and treat their pets exactly as children, going so far as to take them almost everywhere, buy them anything, and surround themselves with other pet lovers. They look out for animals, and many of them are involved in breed rescue and pet fostering. I was shocked by the number of people who contacted me to put their voices together for their dogs…acting socially and politically on behalf of dogs’ rights to exercise and socialize. People open their arms to one, two, even five or six cats because they can’t seem to let a stray stay out in the cold or risk being euthanized at the shelter. Millions of dollars go to animal welfare organizations from thousands of Americans with big hearts. I could go on and on about the wonderful things people are doing to acknowledge pets’ unconditional love and loyalty toward their human companions. Yet with all the good being done for animals, there’s also horrific pet abuse going on behind closed doors in private homes all over our country. With the high concentration of pets in cities, there are cases upon cases of animal abuse and neglect. Some people keep large breed dogs as a status symbol and actually treat them as objects to be beaten, possibly to take out their own frustrations. While they may claim to have trained them as guard dogs, there are people exploiting dogs by training them to fight each other purely for entertainment …even justifying the abuse that way. Cats (as well as wild squirrels, rabbits, and birds) also suffer abuse, especially by children who can dominate them easily because they are smaller than dogs. Often, children are not taught the proper way to care for and love an animal, and they muddle through their own experimentation with what an animal can and can’t endure, even pushing the envelope with torture as play. Some people have pets for the wrong reasons; maybe they started out as playmates for their kids whose interests have changed. Maybe they’ve become a burden to their owner (s) due to behavioral or financial reasons. There’s often a mentality that animals can be tied out in back yards or left in basements so the only real maintenance is feeding and or watering…and sometimes those basic needs aren’t even get met. Pets are looked at by some as a lesser class of being, in that they are expendable and should be harassed or ignored. I think society should applaud and encourage people who treat pets like family. We can lead by example to stop the abuse for all animals. It’s sad how many people consider neglect and abuse acceptable behavior when it comes to animals. No matter the species, a person or animal should be given quality of life that meets all basic needs and raises the bar a little to include love and compassion. We choose them to be in our lives, we don’t have the right to give them anything less. I believe that loving treatment spreads quickly when demonstrated to children and even adults who need help to change. Let’s do our best to make all life worth living.
Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 3 – March 2003
by Stacy Conroy