“Animal people” are an interesting breed.
Much like the animals they care for, they are passionate, loyal and protective.
However, they are also extremely divided among themselves and, at times, can be over zealous to the point where their good intentions are overshadowed by their passionate display.
I recently had the privilege to tour the new Jessamine County Animal Shelter. From what I understand, it is a much-needed Band-Aid for the county’s abandoned- and abused-animal problem. The shelter is a testament to the county’s enthusiasm and concern for all forms of four-legged life.
But that’s all it is — a Band-Aid — and not enough to suture the wound that is Kentucky’s lackluster penalties, poor regulation and raging diversity among the packs of like-minded “animal people.”
The commonwealth is infamously known for its weak laws that do nothing to punish cruelty toward animals. The hypocrisy of being the “Horse Capital of the World” and the state with the most lenient laws against animal abuse is palpable enough to choke on.
So, I understand the over-zealot advocates for animal rights. They get things done. An overreaction at times, maybe, but with the opposite side of the spectrum being absence of concern and absolute sadistic animal abuse, I understand their fervor — an extreme reaction to compensate for an extreme situation.
It’s the petty bickering between those with the same goals that does nothing more than crap in the dog house.
Recently, I was sent a message about adopting or rescuing a stray animal, along with an infuriating question posed to me personally. I usually get a lot of letters and e-mails of this type about donating money or volunteering, all of which I’m happy to receive. But this was a personal message from a “like-minded” friend, and, to paraphrase, it asked simply if my next pet of choice was to be bought from a breeder, which of these animals would I want to execute first? Attached was a picture showing a long corridor of abandoned canines in cages at a shelter.
As I type this column, my 5-year-old purebred German Shepherd, Jack, sleeps soundly, wrapped around my computer chair. And, with my toes lost in his thick black hair, his chest gently rises and falls, and his jowls twitch with dreams. No one is going to tell me his life is less valuable simply because he was purchased from a breeder.
It’s not my fault these dogs in the picture were abandoned, nor am I these abandoned canines’ executioner. Do I want see them put down? Of course not. I must disagree with their premise and accusation. For example, even if I were to adopt one of these caged animals, does that mean I’m sentencing the rest to death?
Is this “Schindler’s List”?
This is an unfair guilt trip and one that divides “animal people” and also distracts and pushes away others who are less passionate about animal welfare.
Guilt-tripping people by showing horrific pictures and making sweeping accusations is not an effective method and will only turn those on the fence away from our cause all together.
My Jack was purchased because I fell in love with him — not because I chose him over another who was less deserving of life.
I remember that day at the breeder’s. I remember why he stood out — his personality, his joy at being alive, the goofy way he splashed about with his brothers and sisters in a kiddie pool under the hot Texas sun, and the way he ran up to me and offered his friendship freely and unabashedly. He was about the size of a football then, and now he stacks at over 3 feet tall, nearly 100 pounds.
This is not to say do not adopt. But you cannot tell me my Jack is any less deserving to be here than one of those dogs in the shelter.
The problem is not breeders but the unregulated ones.
And the problem is not owners but the ones too lazy to spay or neuter.
And the main problem is the weak penalties and lack of enforcement of those jokes of laws for abandonment and abuse of animals.
There is also the bickering among “animal people” that holds us back from addressing these issues with any clout or respect with our legislators.
When you start talking about animal rights, most lawmakers will roll their eyes because of the zealots who overreact to the point they cannot make a competent argument but instead flash pictures of dead puppies.
So it starts with us identifying the root of the problem. It starts with us identifying puppy mills, with talking coherently and calmly to make a point, with taking responsible ownership of our pets, with calling animal control for blatant abuse or violations, with earning a voice in Frankfort and saying these weak and poorly enforced laws are no longer acceptable.
It does not start with pointing the finger or making accusations in our own community of like-minded “animal people.”