Chris Hardin, DVM and Camryn Price, as appearing in Midland’s Woman Magazine
For this issue, please welcome my co-author, Camryn Price, a student at Blythewood High School who has chosen ‘stopping animal abuse and neglect’ as a school project. Please visit her website at www.stopanimalmistreatment1.weebly.com .
Images and news reports of abused, starved, and neglected animals sicken anyone with a conscience. As humans, it is our mandate to advocate for those that cannot speak for themselves. Acts of abuse or neglect demand action – from the obvious, such as a pet in a parked car on a hot day, to the dog on a short chain in someone’s back yard with no water or shade, to the subtle, such as knowing an owner of a new puppy does not intend to vaccinate or deworm their new family member. Often, simply educating the pet owner is sufficient, as in the latter case. Other times, calls to law enforcement, Animal Control or the ASPCA must be made. In these cases, let the authorities confront the offender, and don’t take the law into your own hands.
There are four main classifications of neglect and abuse.
1. Unintentional Neglect – this involves mistakes made out of ignorance in which case the owner has never having been taught proper pet care. Under or over-vaccinating, failure to administer a monthly heartworm preventative, and failure to keep a pet properly groomed are examples. Having a direct conversation with the pet’s owner, or providing educational materials is hopefully sufficient to improve the pet’s lot in life.
2. Intentional Neglect – inexcusable failure to provide water, food, shelter or timely medical care. It is estimated that nine million animals die of starvation every year. Regarding medical care, if a situation would prompt you to seek emergency care for a child (such as being hit by a car), then one should seek emergency care without delay for an animal. There is a mistaken belief among some that animals are ‘tougher’ than people and don’t always have to be rushed in for an emergency involving trauma, repeated vomiting, and other issues.
3. Hoarding – a sad, psychological impulse to ‘help’ too many animals until the situation is overwhelming for the hoarder. These people need professional help, and help in re-homing the affected animals. Often, authorities or non-profits must intervene to aid in getting these animals the needed care.
4. Intentional Abuse – whether directed by a pet owner to their own pet, or to get revenge on a pet owner, intentional abuse remains a serious issue. Almost 65% of this type of abuse involves dogs, and 18% in cats. From a neighbor who leaves out a pan of antifreeze to thin the local stray population, to people using garden shears to ‘crop’ their dogs ears, abuse takes on many forms and should shock any feeling human being. This type of abuse demands the most aggressive advocacy – if it is witnessed or known, call the authorities until the problem is addressed.
As humans, we are given stewardship over animals, and part of that job is acting on their behalf. It takes some courage to take action, and that includes advocating for stronger laws and punishments for those who commit neglect and abuse. Do you know of any situations that fit the above classifications of abuse? Take action today.