Putting Animal Cruelty In Perspective

by Jasmine Hunt , Youth Reporter from Ujima

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

A responsible pet owner is someone who provides food, water and shelter for their pet. This combined with attention, love and care can create a positive environment for years of long lasting companionship.

Unfortunately, some animals never get a chance to experience this situation.

Various types of animal cruelty can destroy and prevent some pets and animals from having a healthy and fulfilling life.

Most recently, dog fighting has gained the most attention from the public media. It’s the most discussed form of animal cruelty.

The atmosphere of big crowds and gambling on such a vicious situation creates a certain shock value.

Dog fighting is a very dangerous situation. Cuts and tears to the dog’s head, ears, chest and legs are the most prevalent injuries sustained during dogfights. If left untreated, they can be life threatening in most cases.

The recent high profile conviction of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick certainly brought animal cruelty and dog fighting into the public eye.

However, even though dog fighting remains a high profile crime, it’s not the most common form of animal cruelty.

“The most common type of trauma we see in animals is in the form of malnutrition and dehydration which comes from neglect,” said Elliot Serrano, Community Outreach Specialist of Chicago’s Anti-Cruelty Society.

In fact, Serrano estimates that only twenty-five percent of the total amount of animals the organization impounds are involved with dog fighting or come from abuse.

On average, the organization rescued about 15 animals per day to the Field Service and Humane Investigations Department.

The majority of animals that the Anti-Cruelty Society (ACS) has at its facility are owner turn-ins. Owner turn-ins are cases where responsible pet owners decide to give away pets to the ACS when they realize they are not able to take care of the animals.

Typically, these animals have a week stay.

“Since our adoption programs are so successful,” said Serrano, “an animal will spend, on average, around a week in our facility before being adopted.”

During the adoption process, ACS provides health care and services.

“We spay and neuter all animals that are adopted or placed with other agencies,” Serrano explained.

According to Serrano, doing so prevents pet overpopulation.

“The simple reality is that if the average pet owner would spay and neuter their pet, the problem of pet over population would simply disappear within the next generation,” said Serrano.

Even though there are some pet owners who take this step to control the pet population, there are many who do not heed Serrano’s advice.

“The unfortunate fact,” he said, “is that there are still many pet owners who either breed their pets for profit or who neglect to sterilize their pets and end up having accidental litters.”

There are many types of animal abuse, but Serrano has seen most animals being left outside without shelter, food or water.

“The most common is animal neglect that results from dogs and cats being left outdoors without access to proper shelter, food, or water,” said Serrano, “resulting in fly bites, dehydration and starvation of the animal.”

People can do many things if they witness animal cruelty, animal neglect or dog fighting.

“If a dogfight is in progress, one should go to a safe area and call 911 to report a felony crime taking place. Information about dogfights being planned can be reported to the city non-emergency number (311) or the Anti-Cruelty Society,” advised Serrano.

The public can raise more awareness about animal cruelty by reporting what they see. They can also invite local animal shelters or humane groups to speak to local schools and community groups.

“Be vigilant,” said Serrano, “and speak up when you see animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect.”

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