Last week, animal control officers in Ft. Pierce rescued four dogs from a canal that is infested with alligators. The officers received an anonymous tip about the first dog and showed up to find an emaciated and wounded dog desperately trying to claw his way out of the canal.
One of the officers managed to get through the nearby woods and pull the dog out with a pole despite the treacherous area. The wounds on the dog told the officers that this had either been a fighting dog or a bait dog that had outlived its usefulness to whoever dumped him in the water.
Three dogs were rescued after that, and at least one of them had serious injuries around its neck including an embedded collar.
It’s unclear whether the dogs were dumped in the hopes they would be eaten by alligators or if the canal was simply in a sufficiently out-of-the-way spot.
The first rescued dog is in the care of the local Humane Society and will be eligible for adoption after he is treated for his wounds.
Animal Control says they’re powerless to stop this behavior without more cooperation and information from the local community.
Why would anyone do such a horrible thing? We find ourselves asking that question over and over again every time that we encounter a particularly unnerving story about animal abuse. We were understandably shocked and disgusted when Mike Vick’s dogfighting ring was the biggest news story.
The explanation isn’t as complicated as we’d like to think: to a person who throws a dog in a canal or puts them into a fight, an animal is just another piece of property. A person is free to destroy a TV that they paid for, and they’re free to dump a musty old chair in a dumpster, and for people who think of animals as just things, it makes sense to toss a dog in a canal when it’s no longer useful to you.
The real question isn’t why do people treat dogs so badly, but why do we flinch when people mistreat dogs but endorse the torture of other animals?
It’s horrible to think of what these dogs have been through: neglected, tortured, forced to fight, wounded and then tossed into a canal to fend off alligators. But we do a disservice to them and all other animals when we try to compartmentalize incidents like these. As long as we promote the idea that animals are property, then people will continue to treat dogs as badly as they treat cows, pigs, chickens and mice.
The answer to animal abuse isn’t more laws or stricter penalties, it’s creating a culture that doesn’t see any animal as a commodity to be used and discarded. We can’t look at a scared dog in a canal and a scared hen in a cramped cage and say that the suffering is different.
Rescuing and fostering animals like the ones saved from the Ft. Pierce canal is an important form of advocating for animals, but if your activism only supports dogs and does so at the expense of all other animals, then you’re only treating the symptoms of a much larger problem instead of working to fix the problem at the source.
If we care about animals, we should work to help all of them, not just the ones we enjoy as companions.
Photo: Caroline Theberge, NOAA