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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turning Trash Into Treasure

"One woman's trash is now the world's treasure."

I love this quote posted on Facebook by someone -- if I knew who I would give the person credit -- (one of more than 93,000 people and organizations around the world) who supports Patrick, the red pit bull starved to the point of death, tossed into a trash bag and thrown down the 19th-floor garbage chute of a derelict, low-income apartment building in Newark, NJ. You can follow Patrick's story and see more pictures of him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/ThePatrickMiracle

Patrick, who on March 16 was a few short hours from death, is now on the long road to recovery. Although he is not out of the woods yet, he has gained 5 pounds and he is building strength in his leg muscles. He barks for his food, enjoys brief walks on the grass, and likes to hang out with staff members at the Golden State Veterinary Specialists hospital in New Jersey where he is receiving around-the-clock care.

Patrick has sparked a movement that grows literally by the minute. People from the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, Brazil, Iceland, Australia, Thailand, France, Slovakia and Germany, among other countries, have been inspired to take action to help animals. A new movement called Patrick's Law plans to start efforts in all 50 states to seek tougher penalties for those convicted of abusing animals. All too often, animal abusers are given probation or community service. Their crimes have not been taken seriously. The animal-loving community is now demanding stricter penalties, including a national registry of animal abusers similar to the sex abusers registry.

People also are encouraged to speak up when they suspect an animal is being abused. Don't ignore the cries and barks of abused animals, as so many apparently did during the weeks or months Patrick suffered at the hands of his abuser. Call animal control, the local humane society or the police. I called my local animal control office yesterday to ask for a welfare check on a couple of dogs in my neighborhood. The call took about 2 minutes. If we don't speak up for the voiceless, who will?

People are stepping up to rescue animals in shelters, although sadly, the number of dogs euthanized every day continues to stagger the imagination. And the stories of animal abuse, especially against pit bulls, continue. Just last week, the body of a 5-month-old pit bull puppy was found on a sidewalk in Oshkosh, WI, the victim of starvation. Worse still, one of the people arrested in the case stated that he and his girlfriend kept the dog, named Snoop, in a metal cage in their living room and watched the poor animal starve to death over the course of a month. There is no punishment too harsh for 'people' like that.

The weekend of April 16, the 1-month anniversary of Patrick's rescue by a compassionate maintenance worker at the apartment complex where Patrick was tortured and his plight ignored for months, people are encouraged to donate gifts in Patrick's honor to their local animal shelters and rescue groups. Donations can include money, pet beds, old towels and blankets, pet food, toys or other items needed by local shelters.

Some of Patrick's army is focusing its efforts on eliminating the need for euthanasia of healthy, happy animals simply because there are no homes for them. The key to achieving this, of course, is to drastically reduce the number of animals ending up in shelters. This will only be done by a tremendous reduction in puppy mills, back yard breeders and others who breed animals irresponsibly and indiscriminately. The other side of the coin is to dramatically increase the number of animals adopted from shelters and rescues. Don't buy from a pet store or breeder only looking to make money by selling precious lives. Save a life and adopt.

None of us alone can solve these problems. But if each of us does something -- donates a few dollars, saves a life by adopting a dog or cat from a shelter, donates pet food or raises awareness -- maybe, just maybe, we can together make a difference, led by a little red dog named Patrick.

Animal abuse has been ignored, tolerated and excused far too long. It is a symptom of a very sick, perverted mind. Animal abusers need to be severely dealt with. I hope that Patrick's story truly will be the spark that ignites the flame of justice for all those suffering at the hands of our so-called 'superior' species.

This emaciated little dog, with such emptiness and sadness in his eyes when he was rescued from the trash, has sparked a world-wide movement. He truly has become the world's treasure. Patrick also is helping to dispel the undeserved reputation of pit bulls as vicious, baby-killing predators.

He has become an ambassador to the world. Patrick's strength and will to live have inspired tens of thousands of people. It now is up to us to put that strength, that motivation and that love, to good use.