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It’s About Treating Animals With Compassion, Not ‘Rights’

By Maleah Stringer

December 17, 2004, ANDERSON, INDIANA--One of the questions that comes up frequently for groups that do animal rescue and deal with the issues of animal cruelty is that of the forgotten animal. You’ve all seen them — the ones chained or in tiny kennels in the back yard 24/7. It seems the only time they get any interaction with another living being is when they’re fed and if they’re lucky when their area is cleaned of feces. This isolation is particularly sad for dogs since they are social (pack) animals. Having very little interaction with either their human family or other animals can cause a number of behavioral problems.

* They lose what social skills they may have had.

* They become depressed and withdrawn.

* May be more prone to bite or behave aggressively.

* Unprovoked barking or whining.

* Health problems.

* Hyper behavior.

In Indiana and most other states animals are considered property. It is also a law in this state that if an animal has food, water and shelter the owner generally cannot be cited for abuse. Well, unless of course they are seen actually beating the animal, or the animals are in horrific physical condition.

There are no definitions for abuse. Shelter can be a lean-to up against a building. There are certainly no laws concerning emotional abuse. We have a hard enough time dealing with this concept when it pertains to humans.

The idea of animals as property isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless the owner abuses the animal and that particular abuse does not fall under the guidelines of state abuse laws. The other problem is that people who have animals or work with animals all have a hundred different opinions on what abuse actually is. What’s abuse to one person is not necessarily abuse to someone else.

The phrase “it’s my dog, I’ll do what I want with it” is used often. And if that means attaching it to a 3-foot chain with food, water and some sort of shelter then they can and do.

For many people the idea of giving animals “rights” is a red alert that their own rights are going to be violated. I was told once emphatically by a trainer, “Animals don’t have rights — they have what I give them. It’s my responsibility to take care of them. And I do.” And maybe she does, but judging from all the blatant animal abuse that goes on all over the world many others do not.

Perhaps I’m being dense, but I’ve never really understood how treating an animal morally or ethically is taking away anyone’s rights. Why have a dog if you’re going to chain it in the far corner of the yard and never pay any attention to it? What’s the point? To say you have a dog? Treating a pet in this manner not only denies the dog a good life but the owner misses out on the truly special bond animals and people can enjoy.

This isn’t about animal rights, this is about compassion and perhaps putting yourself in an animal’s position. I don’t think there are many of us who would want to live our lives almost completely isolated from human or animal interaction, staked to the ground with nothing to do. Never able to run or just act like a dog. Think about what that kind of existence would do to you. This is similar to the life we give to people who’ve committed crimes and are in prison. Wonder what these dogs do to receive the same fate?

Note: If you’d like to support the Madison County Humane Society you can donate the following: dry Purina Kitten Chow, liquid laundry soap, sponge or rag mops, brooms.