I heard a news blurb on the radio a few weeks ago about a case in rural Alabama. Prosecutors had not yet decided whether to charge a man (with cruelty to animals) who collected unwanted dogs from the local race track, corralled them into a pit and shot them. The investigating officer, thoroughly disgusted by what he saw, referred the case to a veterinarian who confirmed the dogs did not die quickly. The man’s defense was that he had been disposing of the race track’s unwanted dogs in this manner for over ten years. He didn’t understand the sudden fuss.
As I was in transit from central Virginia at the time, I didn’t know what station reported the story and couldn’t call to make inquiries. Even without knowing details, I saw the elements clearly: a day in the life of what it is to be an animal on this planet. The man who leads dogs into a pit and shoots them is only the last piece in a composite life of torment for animals who never harmed anyone. Racedogs are bred to race, forced to race and, when they cannot race (or win), dispensed with as unemotionally as when one takes out the trash.
So it is with nearly all domesticated animals such as those we see by the thousands living (and dying) on the streets. We (humans) use them for our own ends and then “get rid of them.” To domesticate means to accustom to home life: human home life. Nature gives her creatures a nesting place or shelter, a food and water source, defenses, and so on. When we domesticate animals we take away all that nature provided and render them entirely dependent on us. In my view, this shoulders us with a weighty responsibility toward animals no longer able to get by on their own.
But shouldering responsibility can be bothersome and expensive. As the reigning species, humans need not bow to constraints of showing respect or activating the Golden Rule with regard to animals -- we can do as we please because they will bear all consequence for our disregard, our neglect, our wickedness toward them. Any change in our behavior toward other living creatures, then, will have to come from within us -- a burst of conscience, the sudden collective pang.
Call me a pessimist, but I hold little hope of seeing a revolutionary correction in human behavior toward animals. How can we make progress when we allow established practices to become acceptable practices? The man in Alabama has been shooting unwanted dogs from the local track for ten years -- never mind the dogs, the routine is established and therefore satisfactory, acceptable to the people involved.
Humans take companion animals “to the woods” and leave them; some people jut boot animals out the door to “get rid of them.” This practice is, sadly, well-established and happens everyday. Never mind that these (domesticated) animals cannot fend for themselves and will die after a long period of suffering; this is what people do when they no longer want an animal and can’t face the responsibility of another living being’s total dependency. We are direct evidence of it in the streets; thousands of animals every night wait and watch for us to bring them something to eat so they can live to fight another day.
So long as human posture toward animals continues to be one of stingily refusing a compassionate embrace, Alley Animals will be needed in the streets. So long as we have the financial support of extraordinary individuals willing to go against the grain, ascribe value to our work by valuing thousands of homeless (and largely forgotten) animals, our work in the streets will not just be needed, it will be possible.
For people, summer is the time to go swimming, enjoy the outdoors, relax on vacation. For homeless animals, summer is a time of choking thirst, heat exhaustion, ravaging parasites and hateful juveniles without anything better to do than torment innocent creatures already tormented enough by life itself. For Alley Animals, summer is the time we scrape by and hope loyal contributors will keep us going.
With vacations and all the other expenses associated with summer activities, a donation to our work in the streets might seem too much of a strain on the budget. Please remember however, we don’t take a vacation from street work no matter how appalling the thought; we’ll take a vacation when homeless animals find relief from their constant hardship. Until then, we’ll be in the streets six nights a week, summer included. Your support makes this possible; your support means less suffering in the streets.
Please Consider remembering Alley Animals in your
Will. Animals on the streets go on struggling to survive at
all cost, and we will go on fighting to better their lot.
If you have been blessed in this life, you can share
your blessings and help us help them even after you’re gone.