“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanuel Kant
Last night, as my dog sighed and curled up tight against the based of my back, I clearly heard a voice say, “Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.”
And symbolically, as well as physically, I knew it was true. My twenty-two pound dog does, indeed, have my back. She is right beside me, following me from room to room as I go about my day, loyal, loving and vigilant in her care for me. With my cats, I feel the same thing. They sack out around my chair in my office when I am writing. They follow me to the bathroom and the kitchen. They loll and drape themselves over me when I sleep. They are there for me — often in ways that other people are not. Their absolute unbreakable connection to me is a source of constant solace. My animals are my family.
So, imagine how I ache when I see so many animals mistreated, maimed, discarded and killed — every single day — in this nation that claims to be so loving to their companion animals. Imagine how hard it is to get my mind around someone who makes a political statement by killing a cat and scrawling epithets on its skin. Imagine the injury to our collective souls when we allow this to continue. Human beings who harm animals will eventually graduate to harming human beings. There is a direct correlation between animal abuse and that escalation. Every day I ask myself why? Why do so many people still treat animals with no dignity or respect? Why do we still have over population in terms of our pets? Why do we not spay or neuter our animals and protect them from such a fate?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.”
Four million. One every every eight seconds.
To add insult to injury, these animals are then rendered into pet food for other animals. It is monstrous. It is inhumane. It is disgusting. The only silver lining is that the numbers killed have dropped steadily since the 1970s when we were killing up to 20 million dogs and cats each year. Still, killing healthy animals simply because they have not been adopted seems patently wrong to me. It is unethical and immoral. It needs to stop. That starts with education about the importance of spaying and neutering as well as helping people to develop more reverence for these animals. They are not garbage. You cannot just “get rid” of a pet when it is inconvenient for you. If you must surrender a pet, at the very least, surrender it to a no kill facility so it can be fostered and adopted. Just this morning I saw a cat on death row (meaning it will be killed tomorrow) surrendered for “shedding.” Animals have fur. Shedding is part of the deal.
The No Kill Advocacy Center and Animal Ark are aiming to create a “no kill” day on June 11, 2012. This post from their Facebook page gives details:
“The No Kill Advocacy Center and Animal Ark are trying to create the safest day for animals in U.S. shelters ever on June 11, 2012 by declaring a national day of No Kill. Roughly 500 shelters and rescue groups have pledged so far, including animal control facilities in Sacramento, CA, Houston, TX, Manatee County, FL, Independence, MO, and elsewhere. Shelters normally closed on Monday, like the shelter in Houston, are going to stay open to adopt animals. Others are bringing rescuers in to teach them how to take good pet photos for adoption. Still others are hosting a pet parade to highlight available animals. All will focus heavily on adoptions. We have the power to end the killing, and it can start with Just One Day. And if they can do it then, they can also do it on June 12 for Just Another Day. . .”
They go on to say, “We need your help:
1. If you are a rescue group, even if you are already No Kill, take the pledge at www.justoneday.ws and do an event or adoption campaign on that day to increase the number of adoptions you normally do and pull those extra animals from the pound;
2. If you are a shelter, take the pledge as well. To help you succeed, we’ll provide you a model press release and promotion plan, a guide to adopt your way out of killing, adoption promotion posters, and more.
3. Everyone, please contact at least one rescue group and one shelter in your community and ask them to take the pledge;
4. Ask your city council/county commission to pass a resolution naming June 11 a day of No Kill in your community.
More info, including a list of participating groups, at www.justoneday.ws .” (Facebook posting of No Kill Advocacy and Animal Ark, May 11, 2012.)
I am just one person. I have all the animals I can realistically take care of, given my salary, and the time I have to devote to them. Of my four pets, only one came to me directly after he was born (Finnegan). The other three are foundlings. Emma was rescued with another kitten from a golf course here in Arizona. Someone had “freed” her to fend for herself. She was approximately 12 weeks old. Edgar was abandoned by someone in my apartment complex. They moved out, leaving him and his brother, Stanfield, in a cat carrier with no food or water. It was July 4th weekend. I stumbled over their crate when I went out to pay my rent. I took them in after realizing that no one would claim them. Stan died six months later, and Edgar took nearly three years to heal from being stabbed in the haunch with a pencil prior to being left behind. My dog, Belle, was left to fend for herself in an empty, foreclosed house in South Carolina. My friend, Wendy, flew her to Arizona (we split the expense) so she’d have a home.
These animals bring me so much joy. They are such wonderful company. But any one of them could have ended up with a very different fate if a less kind, open-hearted person had encountered them. Many would have given up trying to heal Edgar. His wound cost me a fortune, and I nearly did throw my hands up in defeat. I finally took him to a skin specialist who diagnosed the rare infection that he had and gave me a prescription for medication that allowed him to finally get better. Belle is the loveliest doglet — sweet, good with children, loving — and she was left to starve to death. What Gandhi said is as true now as it ever was, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
We can do better. We should do better.
Let’s start with just one day. No animals killed for just one day. Foster. Adopt. Spay. Neuter. These animals were domesticated by human beings. Therefore, we must take responsibility and do what’s right. We must.
© 2012 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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