The Charleston Animal Society has assumed a “no kill” status, basically meaning that it will no longer euthanize adoptable animals. That’s no easy feat given the incredible number of animals it receives daily.
Likewise, Pet Helpers does not euthanize adoptable intakes, and there are scores of smaller rescue organizations throughout the state whose aim is to save unwanted pets from being put to death.
These organizations can only exist with the tireless and selfless efforts of the employees, volunteers and donors.
A recent CAS annual meeting seemed like a combination of a pep rally and a church revival. As the CAS leaders touted their accomplishments, and laid out their ambitious vision to end animal suffering in our state, the crowd roared their approval. It seemed to me (Henri Bianucci) that we really are entering a new and enlightened age of animal welfare.
My enthusiasm was tempered, however, by a case that had been presented to me a few days prior. She was a little pit bull mix, about 12 weeks old, who had been dropped off at a North Area veterinary clinic by a girl who claimed that a neighbor was abusing the puppy.
The puppy was unable to walk on her back legs. They were crumpled behind her, and an initial attempt to touch her was greeted with a horrified screech and a retreat to the back of the cage. She was terrified.
Her X-rays told of the duration, and level of brutality, of the abuse. The hips were both fractured, as were both femurs, the pelvis, parts of the spine and even her little skull.
The fractures were not only severe, they were all in different stages of healing. Some looked very fresh, some were at least weeks old. This puppy had been abused severely and for a long time.
It really sunk in when viewing the radiographs with one of our senior and seasoned technicians, Erin. She was struck silent, eyes filling with tears.
We repaired the fractures that we could, leaving the others to complete some form of healing on their own. The great news is that this little puppy has thrived with the care it received, and she is now well-socialized, walking, albeit with a limp, and playing. In true dog fashion, she is not looking back. She’s going with what she’s got left and getting ready for adoption and a new life.
What strikes me most about all of this is that we seem to live in a parallel universe. A community that is populated with incredibly dedicated, compassionate and generous animal lovers.
Our culture and media celebrate, and are dominated by, stories and images of the human-animal bond. We collectively recoil in horror at scenes of animal cruelty.
Yet, there is another element to our society. Those that would willingly impose cruelty upon a defenseless animal, like our puppy. How can this be? Is it an isolated event? Hardly. These cases are rampant. Kittens thrown from a bridge, dogs set on fire, shot, or tied up and thrown into a river, have all been recent stories on our local news. Look around and see all the stray cats and dogs, or the dogs condemned to life on a chain. No, it is not isolated.
Consider the chicken. In how we regard this bird, I’ll concede that some people have more appreciation for its intelligence than others.
In 1960, Americans ate on average about 20 pounds of chicken per year. Today, its 70 pounds per person. The chicken accounts for 36 percent of all meat consumed in the United States and 25 percent worldwide.
However, this bird — upon which the world now depends — is among the most abused animals in the world. The conditions that large-scale meat and egg producers impose upon them are manifestly cruel.
Egg layers often are not even able to stand, let alone walk around, for their entire life. They are forcibly starved for weeks and deprived of water to induce egg production. Conditions for meat producers are no better.
Yet no federal animal welfare laws apply to this bird. State anti-cruelty laws are their only hope, but in 18 states, they do not apply to animals raised for slaughter, and where they do apply, they are rarely enforced and are narrow in scope.
Are we really composed of two distinct populations, living side by side: one unspeakably cruel, one unfailingly humane? The answer is no. We are divided by shades of grey, not a distinct line. There are those who do not acknowledge that a dog can experience pain, discomfort or emotional distress, as we do, and they justify their treatment, or mistreatment, accordingly.
Many who hold dogs in high regard do not consider the welfare of chickens important, and accept their mistreatment for the same reasons. However we regard them, chickens, cows and pigs are living animals and as such deserve a humane existence up to and including the end.
Sadly, most of us are participants in animal cruelty every day. As long as we accept cruelty to one species, we can expect it in others. If we do accept it in one place, how do we take the high ground when someone abuses a puppy such as our pit bull mix? It’s time to ratchet our awareness up a notch and accept responsibility.
If we are to utilize an animal for food, I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that it was treated humanely. A mere 20 years ago, I listened as veterinarians debated whether horses, cows and pigs perceived pain as we do. That argument sounds absurd today. To accept cruelty to any animal out of convenience, or willful ignorance, is equally unacceptable.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to email@example.com.