When I was a child, my parents told me that monsters aren’t real. As an adult, I know they are, in fact, real. They walk among us. They look no different than you or me. Inside though, their hearts are dark; pure evil lies behind vacant eyes. They are the monsters who do the unthinkable – throw kittens in a dumpster, poison dogs, neglect and starve animals. Incredibly, they often take sick pride in posting their horrific acts on social media. You can’t change these people. All you can do is hope that someone reports their appalling deeds and they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Among the rest of us ‘normal’ folks, there are some who claim to care for their pets but whose behavior is unwittingly cruel – unintentional perhaps, but cruel nonetheless. Sometimes I shake my head at how people can do the things they do to animals, despite continual efforts of animal welfare organizations and media to educate. I ask myself – don’t these people read? Don’t they listen? Are they simply lacking empathy or common sense? Relevant examples are, sadly, not hard to find.
You may have seen the video about Zuzu, the dog abandoned by her owners for being ‘too sad’ after their other dog died. The story sparked international outrage. Forlorn, Zuzu scaled the fence, was picked up as a stray by animal control and brought to an animal shelter. Though depressed, she ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ as a group of people approached. It was her family and she was elated to see them. She wagged her tail and barked happily, certain that they were there to take her home. They weren’t there to retrieve her, however, but to replace her with a ‘happier new dog’. Fortunately, Zuzu now has a home with a family who adores her. All she needed was kindness to help her through her loss. I ask myself – are the people that dumped her completely heartless? Would they give up their child if the child suffered from depression?
Cats aren’t immune to people’s ignorance. Out west, I volunteered at an SPCA Adoption Centre. One day, a mother and her young daughter approached the cat adoption area. I heard mom exclaim ‘Oh look Emma, it’s our old cat!’ She proceeded to approach the kennel containing four year old Max and pointed to him while laughing. Max clearly recognized them. I can only imagine how heartbroken and confused he must have been to see his family act this way. When I explained to mom why this was unintentionally cruel, she just didn’t get it. She said they were thinking of getting a kitten because they’re ‘so cute’. I quietly told her it wasn’t a good life lesson to teach her daughter that pets are disposable. She walked off. I ask myself – would she trade in her ‘old’ daughter for a ‘cute’ baby?
During the province’s January deep-freeze and spate of storms, I overheard a man say he didn’t need to bring his dog inside, since after all, ‘he was a dog’ and he ‘has fur.’ I explained that fur is no guarantee against biting cold, harsh winds and numbing wetness, but his eyes essentially glazed over. I ask myself – doesn’t he care that his dog is at risk of hypothermia and frostbite? How would he like to be forced to stay outside in severe weather?
Last week, a friend emailed me with news about her granddaughter. She said that ‘Sienna loves the cats next door to them. The mom cat has had endless litters which keeps Sienna busy.’ I ask myself – doesn’t that cat’s family realize they are bringing unwanted unloved kittens into the world to face a cruel life on the street as strays, suffering from starvation, disease and injury? Don’t they care that continual pregnancies are increasing their cat’s risk of cancer? I shared my concerns with my friend, who said that ‘she’s pretty sure the cat’s owner had never thought about it that way, but she’d talk to her.’
So do I think some people are unwittingly cruel? You bet. Do I think that it’s up to those of us who love animals to speak up and ensure they are treated with the love, respect and caring they deserve? Absolutely.
Photo: Courtesy Phil Yip
Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their adopted pets. A life-long animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.