Column: Instances of animal abuse should be reported

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Though some might roll their eyes at the melodramatic piano music and celebrity appeals for donations, most of us express at least passive dismay at the abused pets shown on the commercials.

We see images of beaten or emaciated dogs and cats quivering alone in their cages and seeking affection with sad eyes, and we cannot fathom how anyone can be so cruel.

But as with most issues, it’s hard to comprehend how real animal abuse is until we’ve seen it with our own eyes.

If you’re like me and grew up in a home where pets are considered part of the family—sleeping in bed with us, getting their own presents on Christmas, etc.— this is especially difficult to imagine.

Recently, I went to take out my garbage and saw a dog tied up in front of a neighbor’s door.

Thinking the neighbor must be coming out soon to tend to the dog, I walked around it, as I could not be sure how a strange dog with no human present would behave.

On my way back, I heard loud whimpering coming from behind me. I turned around and saw that my neighbor did indeed return for her dog.

She then proceeded to yell at it, smack it repeatedly in the face, and go back inside without it. She emerged numerous times and continued this ritual despite the dog wagging its tail in the hopes of going inside.

All the while, I stood there in shock at what I was witnessing and very obviously stared at my neighbor. However, she seemed unfazed as if nothing was wrong with what she was doing.

I’ve seen people whack their dogs on the behind with newspapers before, and while that isn’t nice, it’s not a direct intention to physically hurt the animal.

This clearly was.

Seeing animal abuse on TV and knowing the statistics is one thing. Seeing it right in front of your face and hearing an animal’s distress with your own ears is another.

All of a sudden, without inspiring piano music or Sarah McLachlan prompting me to “be an angel” to an animal in need, I had a choice to make.

I could not just change the channel to avoid responsibility in real life, so I resolved to call and report the incident to the police.

According to the Humane Society’s website, violence toward animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that includes people as well, so involving law enforcement quickly is crucial.

The Humane Society recommends keeping numbers on hand for local animal welfare agencies, shelters and humane societies in addition to police departments.

What I saw was unfortunately just one in thousands of situations that occur everyday.

Some people claim to be “training” their dogs by hitting them, when all violence really does is teach them to act aggressively.

Though I’ve definitely had a conversation or two with my dog, the fact of the matter is that dogs do not speak English. They will not understand that they are being hit because they peed on the carpet.

They do, however, respond to positive reinforcement and commands of disapproval when caught in the act of a negative behavior. Dogs can be corrected appropriately without being punished unnecessarily.

At any rate, violence against pets is unacceptable and should never be tolerated. Even if you’re not going to donate to animal welfare agencies, you can set an example by treating your pets properly and report abuse when you see it.

Stephanie Markham is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].