Have you ever witnessed someone screaming at their dog, calling it names, or worse, hitting or kicking it? What can you do about it?
Much like child abuse, it usually goes on behind closed doors, but every once in awhile animal abuse seeps out into the light of day. In fact, there is a distinct correlation between human abuse and animal abuse, with animal cruelty serving as a childhood warning flag for most serial killers. A recent case in New Brunswick, reported by CTV, involved a dog being doused by acid, but without witnesses, police and animal welfare authorities were unable to track down the offender.
Once upon a time, humans used to make animals jump through hoops of fire for their own entertainment, but all of that has changed, as society evolves toward a more compassionate and kind sentiment. Zoos, horseracing and rodeos are slowly on their way out; products of days gone by when most folks lived on a farm and not in the city.
The burgeoning vegetarian movement has ushered in a growing acknowledgement of animals as sentient beings that deserve more regard and compassion. As far back as 1789, English barrister and early proponent of animal rights, Jeremy Bentham, wrote that “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
The emerging field of animal law combines legislative and case law and covers companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and research. It has been compared to the environmental law movement 30 years ago.
And in the past 30 years, a great deal has changed, including the founding of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in 1979. The legal organization has been instrumental in the strong enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more human treatment of animals.
The ALDF provides advice on what to do when your pet has been injured or killed, if you believe your vet has harmed or killed your pet, if the pet you bought became sick or died soon afterwards, or where you know anti-cruelty laws have been broken, and how to find an attorney.
There’s even a mobile app to report animal cruelty so that if you witness a neighbor’s neglected animal, substandard conditions at your local animal shelter or pet store; animal neglect or hoarding, you can contact the relevant authorities immediately.
Gradually, the public has come to see that animals are indeed sentient beings that suffer. Thanks to society’s evolution, we no longer find it entertaining to see lions ‘tamed’ and seals ‘trained.’ The incidence of puppy mills has decreased while other organizations have sprung up to promote spaying and neutering of pets.
Zoos, aquariums, rodeos, circuses, horseracing – all of these phenomena involve using animals for our own entertainment, often putting them at risk for injury or death, not to mention keeping them in captivity – are on the way out.
If you see something that is not right, visit the ALDF website, and or contact your local humane society. Before purchasing a pet, check out this registry of people convicted of animal cruelty. As Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
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