Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Treatment of Dogs

This weekend, something terrible happened.  A pit bull / pit mix was shot and killed after escaping from her yard.  If you watch the video, you can get more details.

Obviously, I think this is unacceptable.  What I really think is outrageous is that charges have not been filed yet.  In this day and age, most people view dogs as more than just an animal.  Many dogs are seen as members of the family.  Some dogs provide a service such as therapy or search and rescue.  Some dogs participate in sports with their families, and thrive in Rally-O, agility, fly ball, or dock diving.  All of these dogs are loved in ways that people without pets could never understand.  The fact that the law has not recognized this is absurd.

Many people who know me, know the story of one our dogs, Sam.  Sam was a stray that came to our house for food and friendship.  While we left food out, we didn't adopt him right away (four dogs was enough), and we noticed that he roamed quite a distance, about three miles.  After a while, though, he started hanging around our house more and more.  We would come home, and he would be there.  He'd whine and smile when we got home.  He loved to snuggle, and he got along well with the other dogs.  At least, that's how he was with us.  With new dogs and new people he was much more stand-offish.  If we were around, he'd protect us, but if we weren't around he'd simply keep his distance.

Then, one day, I was at home after school, changing out of my uniform, when I heard a gun shot.  This was nothing new, we lived in the country, but then I heard something that caused my heart to drop.  I heard a yelp.  It took less than a second for me to understand what had happened.  I ran outside and searched the back field, trying to see the dogs.  Out came Benji, Lani, Sweet Pea, and...Sam.  Except, Sam stopped short.  Before he could make it to the edge of the garden, Sam fell over.  I ran to him, and there was the wound, right in his shoulder.  I ran as fast as I could back to the house and made two phone calls, first to 911 and then to Mom.  Then I ran back to Sam.

If this happened now, I would be better equipped to deal with it (I could drive, for one).  Then, though, all I could do was sit with him and let him know I was here.  Mom, who was at least 30 minutes away, got there before the police or animal control.  When the police and animal control arrived, we were told the only thing they could do to help was to assist in loading him in the car.  I was flabbergasted.  Thank goodness Mom was home, because otherwise Sam wouldn't have been able to get help.  That was the day we officially adopted Sam.

I'm thankful for two things that day.  One, it was tax season, so Mom had extra money to pay for his treatment.  Two, and most important, the shot did not kill Sam.  However, it did leave a lasting scar.  Sam had to have his leg amputated.  While Sam did well with three legs, it definitely slowed him down.  He could no longer keep up with the other dogs, and he got winded much faster.  Long walks weren't an option without long breaks.  Plus, the spot where his leg used to be was often sore, and caused him pain and discomfort.

While that was sad enough, the worst part was that nothing happened to the guy who shot Sam.  The guy claimed that Sam had been chasing his horses, and in Hanover it's legal to protect your livestock.  So, what problem do I have with this argument?  Well, for starters, we had two horses of our own, and the dogs never bugged them.  Then there's the fact that Sam couldn't have weighed more than 40 pounds...much too small to hurt a horse.  Oh, and then there are the neighbors that knew that the guy had used another dog for target practice.  Obviously, this does not equal a situation where I think it would be OK to use a gun on a dog. 

Since this time, I've learned two things.  One, keep an eye out on your dogs.  Cody doesn't go out unless I'm with him.  Two, laws need to change.  A dog's position in the world needs to change.  In a world where people are leaving their fortunes to their dogs, how can we deny that dogs are more than just "dumb animals?"  Things need to change!

OK, so what are your thoughts?  Do you know a dog that has experienced trauma?  Have you tried to help?  If you're looking for ways to help, just ask.  There are tons of organizations out there.


  1. The man who shot Sam did get arrested! But then the trial was postponed due to Hurricane Isabel. Then when the next trial date came up, none of the witnesses were available, so we had to drop it, but I was happy just with the fact that the guy got arrested and had to pay legal fees in order to hire a lawyer. I always said that he would think twice before he tried to shoot another dog.

    The laws are actually pretty that it is a misdemeanor to shoot a dog and a felony to kill a dog (unless it's attacking livestock or poultry). The key is to do what I did in Sam's case...don't let up until the perpetrator is arrested.

  2. Really? I definitely thought he had just been let go. I still don't understand entirely why they dropped the case. I think they didn't think a dog was worth it...would have been worth it for a person.

    I do think laws should be stricter. I really like what Connecticut (I think that's where) is doing. They've started an abuse registry. It's much like a sex offender's registry, only it's for people who have been convicted of animal abuse. Good idea!