FORD: There is never an excuse for animal cruelty


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Max, our cocker spaniel, was dead. Papa buried him in the garden.

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Max was electrocuted when he chewed through the washing machine cord. When I found him in the basement he was cold.

He was the only dog ​​our family ever owned. Cats seemed to be an easier kind of pet.

Most of our cats have also achieved less than optimal endings. One had climbed into the wheel arch of the car and when Dad went to work, the cat left his life. It was my younger sister’s birthday. When dad got home that evening he came with a spare kitten, both a gift and an apology, although it wasn’t his fault.

Subsequent cats met their fate as they crossed the street; One was mauled by a neighbor’s pair of German shepherds and when he dragged himself home we took him to a vet for a merciful end.

I mention all of this because of a bizarre case of a blind Calgary man who was jailed for hitting his dog with his cane.

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It’s bizarre because animal cruelty is on par with jaywalking or littering. In other words, we usually treat animals with little respect and less care. We are the owners; they are our property.

When Canmore was faced with an influx of rabbits – there’s a reason for the “bred like rabbits” joke – the city council passed an eradication plan. Nothing came of it when little kids carried colorful placards – Save Our Bunnies! – marched down the main street. As an adult I realize that rabbits, geese, raccoons, squirrels and magpies are nothing more than urban nuisances, ideally kept to a minimum.

What I don’t understand is the attitude that a sentient animal can be starved, abused, beaten and trained to be a killer and the owner or perpetrator usually only gets a metaphorical slap in the hand and a court ban on him (sometimes her) being punished pet ownership.

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Jason Harron was jailed for three months for repeatedly hitting his dog Bear with his stick, resulting in a broken bone in the dog’s snout. The judge said a longer prison sentence would be “appropriate” if it weren’t for Harron’s disability. “His violence is inexcusable,” the judge said.

No one’s violence against the helpless should ever be condoned. Canada has had federal laws against animal cruelty since 1892, which has given this country 130 years to get it right. But it was not until a 1978 court case that the importance of the human-animal relationship was articulated in court.

From this case comes the following legal opinion on man’s responsibility towards animals: “The right given to them by their position as supreme creatures to employ animals to satisfy their needs, but imposing a rule of civilization on themselves, they renounce, condemn and suppress any infliction of pain, suffering or injury on animals which, while in pursuit of a legitimate purpose, is unjustified by the choice of means employed… (Human) is obligated not to inflict pain, suffering or harm on animals which is under taking into account the intended purpose and the circumstances of the individual case are not unavoidable. Even if it is not necessary for man to eat meat, and if he could do without it, as many actually do, it is man’s prerogative to eat it.”

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One does not have to be a vegetarian or vegan to be concerned about the welfare of animals, including those we eat.

However, one study was blunt: Canada has “a dismal record when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect.”

The Harron case is complex (he was blinded when he was shot by police), but it highlights the disconnect between the pets we cherish – “fur babies” – and those who abuse them. The US Humane Society says “those who intentionally abuse animals are overwhelmingly males under 30.” There is also a link between domestic violence and animal cruelty.

Let’s ask why the penalty for animal cruelty is lower than the penalty for child abuse? Is it because one is human and one less? Both are helpless. Both are dependent on the adults in the house.

What grotesque person would abuse something that cannot defend itself?

Catherine Ford is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.

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