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Responsible pet ownership stressed

Posted on February 12, 2014 by Taber Times

To say the turn of events involving a dog death here on the outskirts of Taber are a tad bizarre would be an understatement.

There was the provincial firestorm that happened over animal rights in the perceived case of cruelty in which initial indications in an RCMP investigation thought at first the young black lab was beaten by a nearby steering wheel.

A necropsy reversed course in which a firearm bullet was deemed to cause the death of the animal and no charges were laid.

There are so many unconfirmed variables to this case, I am not going to stand here on a soapbox declaring if charges still should have been laid, or what farmland etiquette with animals should be in the case involving the shooter. Rather I’ll concentrate on the words that have been used in various media outlets that I have found disturbing in which some have just quickly brushed off this case.

Describing this animal as a ‘nuisance’, ‘had a problem with it’ etc. can be found regularly in TV and newspaper reports involving this animal and it makes me cringe with how casually some take animal ownership.

A dog not behaving the way you want it to? So shoot it, or drive it out to an open field and drive away, or simply do not give it the attention it needs because you are ‘too busy.’ This neglect of attention turns the dog into the very ill-tempered animal you want to dispose of because you are not showing it the love and attention it needs.

While many view that box full of kittens on Facebook to ‘give away to a good home’ as the cutest thing ever, all I see is a non-farm family unwilling to spend the money to fix their cat thus, increasing the possible unwanted pet population. Often there is absolutely no screening of perspective homes as people simply want these animals out of their home. That little puppy with a red ribbon tied around its neck for your toddler at Christmas may seem a heart-warming gift at the time, but unless you are truly willing to put the work in to make that animal a cherished member of the family, all it is, is selfish so that you can see a smile on your child’s face at Christmas, because surprise, surprise, that little puppy becomes a big dog.

In my time writing for the Sun Times way back in the day, I’ve wrote on animal rescue groups for rottweilers and greyhounds. At the time, rottweilers were the ’in’ breed to own, where some simply chained the animal in the backyard to guard their house (or illegal drugs) or did not realize such a big breed needed some extra attention to train it properly.

Several news reports surfaced of rottweilers, pit bulls and similar larger breeds attacking small children etc. and fear gripped the populace that people should stay away from certain breeds for pet ownership. As the member of the rottweilers rescue group pointed out, the reason why these types of dogs made the headlines was because of their size. Yes, an unloved, abused or untrained rottweiler can be a serious danger to a person, but so can a poodle. It’s just the poodle biting your ankle doesn’t make the headlines.

I have no cat or dog at my apartment. We are not allowed pets in the building, but even if I was, I’d likely not own a cat or dog although in my youth several animals graced our household. Being by myself and as anyone knows the life of a community newspaper person, my workday can start at 8:30 a.m. and not end until 9 p.m. some days depending on event coverage. Without any help, I feel this is simply not fair to a perspective animal in being loved and cared for properly.  

And believe me, I love animals. Any house I visit, I make sure a dog gets plenty of belly rubs or a cat finds their way onto my lap with plenty of petting. I still remember vividly from my youth the day our dog Sady died, succumbing to a condition she had apparently had since birth according to the veterinarian. To keep our minds off it, our parents took us out of the house and went to dinner at Brian’s Restaurant in Lethbridge, where I just sat there in a daze, wishing my dog was still there as I chomped away at my spaghetti.

But empathy for an animal can come the other way as well in deciding to put an animal down. Another animal case I remember vividly from my youth is looking after my aunt’s house and the family dog of her niece and nephews while they all went on a long weekend trip.

I had no idea Whiskey’s hip dysplasia had got so bad, merely moving was painful for her with light whimpers with her arthritis of her joints, as I had to carry her outside just to go to the bathroom. I sat there as she laid on the ground in obvious discomfort as I petted her fur, tears began to fill the eyes of this know-it-all teenager. My second cousins were younger than me and I simply think their mother was too afraid to do what needed to be done to the family pet. Whiskey had lived a long and fruitful life in dog years at that point, but she had no quality of life to speak of at this point, and rather than face the tears of her children which it itself was good intentions, she let the dog the family loved so much continue to suffer.

That is why I cannot fathom the darker recesses of mankind’s heart when I hear of some of these animal cruelty cases. Animals’ mouths taped shut and left out in the cold, the Michael Vick dogfighting etc. If people are willing to treat animals this way, I can fathom a guess, their dealings in everyday functioning society have their blemishes as well. Psychologist Martha Stout in her book “The Sociopath Next Door” is one of many in the profession that have identified the mistreatment of animals as a youth as a surefire sign of becoming a sociopath into adulthood.

Whether it is extreme cases like this to the other side of the spectrum of simply ignoring an animal’s needs, animal ownership has to be taken seriously.

A family pet is another member of the family…….it is a brother, a sister, or a possible mother or father depending on its nesting/protective instincts. It is just this family member has four legs instead of two. Show the same level of respect for you family pet as you would a member of your own human family and I guarantee you will be rewarded with cherished times and memories that will last a lifetime.

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