Friday, April 26, 2013

Is Poverty Cruelty to Animals?

Liz Klimas reports on a really vindictive attack on an impoverished animal lover:

So, the dog Harley was probably the only friend Tammy Brown had--if she'd had human friends they'd have to have been awfully poor, too, not to have helped care for the dog--and these "humane" people "rescued" him from the horrors of growing old with a disfigurement. But that's not enough; they have to inflict more misery on Ms. Brown.

Wake up, America. The Humane Society aren't about kindness to dogs or cats or humans.

(1) Dogs aren't as eye-conscious as humans and don't reject friends who have ugly benign tumors; nothing in this report tells me that the dog was aware of any abuse or neglect.

(2) While cats usually grow emotionally attached to places, dogs usually grow emotionally attached to people. When a dog has lived with you for fourteen years, wherever you are is probably all he knows of "home" or even "Heaven." He won't blame you for not being able to feed him; his instincts will tell him that it's his turn to feed you. Putting him into the custody of someone who has more money may be harder on the dog than letting him miss a few meals or vet visits would be.

(3) But the "humane" types didn't put Harley up for adoption; they just killed him. Why? Because, although the Humane Society can still attract some sponsors and volunteers who honestly like animals, they are currently led and funded by people whose goal is the extinction of domestic animals.

(4) And prosecuting Tammy Brown, after she's lost the ability to care for her only friend, and lost him, is such blatant cruelty that I can't imagine how her persecutors can live with themselves.

At this point I pause to consider why I feel so emotional about this. Because in 2011, at the time when Harley was murdered for appearing to be "neglected," I wasn't eating regularly myself, that's why. The Cat Sanctuary cats were eating--something or other--every day, but I wasn't. Because my belief is that if I can't earn my own living I have a moral obligation to stop living, but I've observed that lots of people, even total strangers, like to pitch in and help animals.

I want to share this with people who find themselves living in poverty and have bonded with animals in the years when they were more comfortable. You don't have to give up your pet, nor do you have to neglect it. Your dog(s) and/or cat(s) and/or hens and/or even horse(s) care about you, too, in their way. Through you they have learned to trust other humans. If you don't have any living human friends, your animal friends can help you meet some new ones.

Pause. How would I, personally, go about begging someone I didn't know for money for cat food or veterinary care? I wouldn't--because everyone I know knows that I live with cats, and some people always ask about the cats and are interested in volunteering any kind of help, and some are not. I don't actually buy most of the kibble that's consumed at the Cat Sanctuary. People who would like to adopt a cat, whether they can plan to adopt one or not, buy most of the kibble. They also buy most of the treats, do all of the driving, and pay for most of the veterinary care. All I've really had to provide for my cats has been a place to live and my wonderful caring-but-no-pressure personality.

But one year I made a quick decision that, instead of taking the time to try to call a driver for an emergency vet visit, the kitten was small enough and sick enough that it'd be faster and thus more humane just to run out to the vet, on foot. And before I'd walked the first mile, a trucker stopped and asked, "Are you taking that cat to the vet? Let me help--'cos I like animals." And he reached down from the truck with a handful of money that more than covered the cost of treatment. I had my own money in my pocket, so I wouldn't have asked this stranger for money even if I'd been talking to him, which I had not. People just feel good about doing things that help animals.

Some animals are more charismatic than others. Some people's willingness to help depends on the amount of help that is necessary. Tell people that you need help to determine whether a disfiguring tumor on a fourteen-year-old dog is cancer or not, and even that man who wanted to hand out thirty dollars at the sight of a sick kitten might say, "I'll help you put that dog out of its misery." Complex equations involving time and money, age of the animal, looks and personality of the animal, time people have to think about it, plus other drains on the human's resources, come into play. Another year, another cat, less fluffy and adorable-looking, needed an emergency operation; while people were still doing their "That much money for that cat? Can't you ask someone else?" thing, the cat died from loss of blood--but at least she wasn't "neglected" for more than three days.

I'll say this much. If I had a pet who I believed could be saved only by expensive treatment, and I needed help to pay for that treatment, I think I'd help the animal ask for help. I think I could sit down with the animal, in front of the veterinary clinic, and say to passers-by, "Fluffy here needs (whatever). I don't have the money to pay for it. Can you spare any money?" until Fluffy and I had raised the amount needed.

People who met me in real life as an adult might say, "Oh that's all very well for you--you've been an activist, you've knocked on people's doors for causes." Yes, but before I was an activist I was a painfully shy teenager, with acne. We all start somewhere. When you believe a cause is worth it, you can put your shyness aside long enough to do something useful.

It's not altogether clear from Liz Klimas' report whether the dog Harley was underfed, or was just an old, frail dog with a tumor who shouldn't have been reported as a neglected animal in the first place. But if she knew Harley needed help she couldn't give him, Tammy Brown should have set aside pride, shyness, or whatever else, and asked other humans--individuals, not the horrible Humane Society bosses!--to help Harley get the care he needed while staying in the place and with the person he loved.

Real success for the Cat Sanctuary would be to become one of the places where people like Tammy Brown could appeal for help for Harley. Not for handouts from me personally, but for networking. Post the story here, connect with people in Florida (where they lived), enlist volunteers to drive the dog to the vet in their own neighborhood.

Maybe, in another five or ten years, we can reclaim the term "sanctuary" from the horrible "humane" types, define a Cat or Dog Sanctuary as in many ways the opposite of a Humane Society shelter, and make it possible for people like Tammy Brown to know that they can go into a public computer center and Google "Dog Sanctuary" and, within half an hour, connect with people who can help. (Not social workers who want to make the human and the dog into ongoing "cases," but just friends who care about the dog and are willing to get to know its human in due time.)

Meanwhile...file this one under "scam" too, because Wayne Pacelle's Humane Society of the United States has become one great big horrible scam.