Coping with Fuzzy Lines in Animal Neglect
Last week, six dogs in poor condition were rescued from a home in deplorable condition in Bothell, WA. With the animals’ hair matted, teeth rotting, and deformed feet, plus garbage and feces littering the property, it seemed a rather clear-cut case of animal neglect. But what do you do when people treat their animals badly, but not exactly illegally? It’s a question I’ve faced on several occasions, and as I raise my daughters to care kindly for animals, I struggle to explain why some animals are treated so poorly.
I spent my summers on a farm in Indiana, and every day after strolling across our field and past the little wood, I’d see a dog chained to her doghouse. I never saw her running free, never saw anyone walking her. They claimed that if they didn’t chain her, she’d roam the neighborhood. But that didn’t seem like a good excuse to me.
When I lived in Palo Alto, my family would pass certain fences on our twice daily walks and a dog on the other side would bark ferociously. I could peek through holes in the fences and recognize that I never saw these dogs walking around the neighborhood – something very unusual because I knew dozens and dozens of the dogs who lived near me. Combined with their appearance and attitude, I was fairly certain the dogs never saw past the fence in their little yards.
In both of these cases, I didn’t feel like I could report the dog owners for abuse. I felt so terrible for these dogs, but didn’t really know what to do. I was almost willing the owners to do something illegal so I could finally take action. But nothing ever happened – I never had that moment of clarity when I felt I could finally call animal services and report the neglectful owners.
So I’d like to know how many of you have witnessed chronic poor treatment of animals in your community. When it’s not legal abuse, have you taken steps to protect the pets? What have you done to help the animals?