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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When Will There Be Justice?

I need to rant. I am fed up with cruelty, neglect and exploitation of the innocent and weak among us. The victims are animals, children and the elderly. There have been so many stories lately about absolutely horrendous acts of cruelty against animals. In far too many cases, the guilty party gets a slap on the wrist, if that. Courts have traditionally not taken animal abuse seriously, although numerous studies have linked animal abuse to such things as serial murders. Much animal abuse is considered a simple misdemeanor. Prosecutors and courts, overwhelmed with other cases, often are reluctant to pursue charges and serious sentences. The feeling that "It's just a dog" or "It's just a cat, or horse or whatever other animal" is far too prevalent.

Animals are not the only victims of human stupidity and cruelty, of course. Child abuse is another plague that is tolerated far too much in our society. A 2-year-old girl died in Albuquerque a few weeks ago after her mother left her strapped into her car seat for nearly 3 hours. The mother had 'forgotten' that the child was in the car when she took her 4-year-old to an appointment. Outside temperatures were in the mid-90s. The temperature inside the van? 135 degrees.

A local man donned boxing gloves and punched his 2-year-old son at least 15 times in the head and torso, at one point hitting the child so hard he flew off the bed. The boy suffered brain damage and was put on life support until his organs could be donated. The father waited nearly an hour to call 9-1-1. His explanation? He was trying to teach his son how to box.

A 2-year-old child in Concord, CA, was mauled to death by three of the family's five dogs when the child wandered into the garage where three of the dogs were. Where were the family members responsible for watching the child? As a result of their carelessness (that's far too generous a word, in my opinion), the child died and all five dogs were put to death.

I believe it is time for the gloves to come off and for people to be absolutely outraged that in a supposedly 'advanced' country like the United States of America, such things are allowed to continue. Punishment needs to fit the crime. No more excuses about how the perpetrator had a 'hard' childhood, or didn't do well in school, or comes from a dysfunctional family, or grew up 'in the hood' or whatever other lame excuse is offered to excuse the abuser's behavior. It seems that the more advanced we become technologically, the more primitive our behavior becomes.

I know that jails and prisons are overcrowded. But we as a society need to start dealing with these thugs seriously. No more probation or 'time served.' No second chances. Abuse is not acceptable in any form, and those who abuse others need to be held accountable and punished appropriately.

I have a problem with people who are intentionally cruel to animals. People like the man who left his dog locked in a cage, with no food, water or shade, in 100-degree temperatures for three days. Imagine the suffering that poor dog endured. Or the group of three young people who viciously beat to death a baby llama, apparently for the 'fun' of it. Those people need to face harsh consequences.

I know that the number of dogs and cats being put to death in U.S. shelters and animal control facilities has dropped considerably since I left my humane society job in late 1988. More people seem aware of the importance of spaying and neutering. But sadly, the puppy mills that mass-produce dogs for sheer profit continue to thrive. People out to make a quick buck continue to produce 'designer dogs' such as golden doodles, puggles (pug/beagle mixes), labradoodles and other ridiculous combinations while millions of mixed-breed dogs are put to death every year because there are no homes for them. And people willingly pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for these mixed-breed 'designer' dogs while others die.

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against mixed breed dogs. My Mila is a Lab/beagle mix, and I have shared my life with several wonderful mixed breed dogs. My heart dog, Jackson, was a Jack Russell terrier/cattle dog mix. But purposefully creating a new 'style' of dog simply for marketing purposes is just plain wrong. I am not an animal rights advocate. But there is so much more to be done to protect animals in this country.

I try to live a life of minimal impact on the earth. I recycle everything; I reuse and I give away things I can no longer use. I drive a hybrid car. I walk or ride my bike on short errands. I am a conscientious omnivore, trying to make informed choices about what I eat and drink. But I am tired of the animals with which we supposedly share this planet being treated as disposable goods. Far too many people treat animals as either disposable commodities or as nuisances to be exterminated.

People purchase or adopt a puppy. The puppy gets no training, and of course it grows up to be a big, ill-mannered, out-of-control dog. The dog gets dumped at the local animal shelter, if it's lucky, to become someone else's problem. A lovely German shepherd puppy named Emily was adopted from the shelter where my daughter volunteers. A couple of weeks later, Emily was returned. Why? The family didn't have time for her. Didn't they think of this before taking on the commitment of raising a puppy? Are they that stupid??

People allow their female dog to have a litter of puppies "because she's such a great dog and would be a wonderful mother." Sometimes the animals suffer because of human ignorance. Other times, animals suffer because of human stupidity.

Albuquerque news media has been full of stories of stupid people causing the death of innocent animals. Example: A couple and their little dog go camping in a national forest where camping is not allowed. They store food in their tent. And surprise, a bear wants the food and attacks them as they sleep. The people were injured but not seriously. The little dog was killed and eaten by the bear. And the bear? It was tracked and shot by rangers for being a threat to people. This is a true incident that happened in New Mexico a few weeks ago. More than 30 bears have been executed in New Mexico for being 'nuisances' to people just this year. We take over their habitat, destroy it or build houses in their territory, then we get upset if a bear dares to walk across our property or do what bears do -- search for food.

Example: The endangered Mexican gray wolf has been reintroduced into parts of New Mexico, in an attempt to reestablish packs of these magnificent animals in part of their former territory. Recently, three alpha males were found shot to death. The alpha male of another pack, which was wearing a radio collar, has been missing since April. In the most recent case, a dead cow, also shot, was found not far from the wolf's body.

Wolves are the precursors of dogs. Millions of people in the United States share their lives with dogs. So how can these magnificent animals be so hated? Wolves are killed for 'sport' (something I will never understand) or because they are supreme predators and eat moose (a favorite object of hunters in Alaska) or occasionally cattle. So we should exterminate them? I just don't understand.

I feel so helpless when I read about yet another case of abuse, whether the victim is a child, an animal or an elderly person. What can I as an individual do to help? Fortunately, the courts seem to take abuse of another human being more seriously. But what of the 'lower' animals who are far too often the victims of human cruelty?

What justice is there for them? How long will those of us who care (and there are millions of us) sit by and wait for justice for those who cannot fend for themselves?