Friday, August 30, 2013

Where's the Humanity?

Warning: reading this article may trigger extreme emotional reactions. If you have a mood disorder, please go to the right side of the page now and click on a different story:

A comment I'm posting here, because it's long, has to do with animal behavior. Dogs and cats react to the loss of puppies and kittens in a variety of ways. Sometimes their reactions have something to do with the cause of death. A malnourished mother animal whose babies are close to starvation may indeed eat a baby (yes, this has been documented in humans). A mother animal who's about to die from starvation may no longer have the strength to digest a meal, and may refuse to eat a starving baby animal for that reason. A kitten or puppy who's died from one of the infectious conditions animals can smell (humans can learn to recognize most of the odors too) may be buried in order to improve the atmosphere. Kittens are prone to bacterial enteritis, which usually causes painful death; mother cats recognizing this disease will stop feeding or grooming sick kittens, but will check on them from time to time and resume caring for them if the kittens do fight off the disease. And when a tame animal mother doesn't know what to do for her babies, she's likely to bring them to her humans and see whether the humans can help.

Father dogs and cats have a poorer record than mothers. Father cats have been known to kill and eat healthy kittens, apparently in the hope that the mother will be interested in starting a new litter. On the other hand some dogs and social cats can be described as good fathers who help the mothers feed and protect their babies...but they're a minority. Most father dogs and cats just ignore their mates and offspring.

Do animals ever choose abortion? I've seen cats mate, appear to be pregnant, then mate again and appear to have terminated the pregnancy. I'm not sure whether the spontaneous abortions trigger the renewed interest in sex or vice versa, but I've seen otherwise healthy cats do this and stay sexually active and baby-free all through the year.

Now, about the alleged humans in this story. Why would someone choose to starve a dog instead of selling it, putting it in a shelter, or shooting it? Probably because he's a sociopath, although I've heard of other possibilities. According to local legend a Scott County man once inherited a few acres of flat, arable land on the condition that he keep a few cows on the land as long as the cows lived. The will specified that he keep the cows, but did not specifically mention feeding them. So he let the cows eat all the grass in their pasture in autumn, and then instead of leading them to a fresh pasture or buying hay in winter, he let them starve, and then according to the terms of the bequest he was free to plough the land in spring. But people knew what he'd done, and despised him.

I'm more concerned about the Humane Society...not to mention the emotional reaction about how "he shouldn't be allowed to keep another animal." How, apart from confining him to an institution (which is probably a better idea since he's probably a sociopath), can he be prevented from keeping another animal? More background checks, more difficulties for those who want to keep pets, perhaps more restrictions on people interacting with wild or feral animals outdoors? Don't fall for it, Gentle Readers...

But why did the Humane Society ignore a case that's right up what's still believed to be their alley? One likely explanation: because today's Humane Society has been taken over by those who want to destroy domestic animals, "humanely," as distinct from those who want to help animals find loving homes. I suppose some sort of bureaucratic glitch might supply an excuse, and the glitch might actually exist, but the Humane Society's failure to intervene in a clear case of animal abuse fits into a pattern that's more ominous than basic bureaucratic inefficiency.