Assumption Becomes Presumption: And the ASS Here Might Be You... By: Lenna S. Hanna-O'Neill
Gr.CH. Falcon Blue du Chateau Rocher, co-owned by Lenna S. Hanna-O'Neill of Sword and Sourcery, Karla Davis of Chateau Rocher, AKC Judge Heidi Clevenstine and Beauceron fancier and long time BIS Ibizan breeder Rose Bednarski. Click on the picture to learn more about Falcon, the 2011 Beauceron National Specialty winner.
Recently, we have seen a huge change in the way people respond to one another. I blame the internet, because while it allows us to communicate better than ever before, it has not allowed us to really CONNECT like you do in person. And, many studies have shown that people are far more ready to be rude and outspoken on the 'net than when they are face to face. They are more willing to be hateful, aggressive, and accusatory. And I believe we are beginning to see this trend spilling over into real life.
Nowhere is this more apparent, at least in my world, than in the ways that people berate one another over animal issues. We have seen a huge increase in blaming and shaming, in almost all aspects of pet ownership; everything from docking and ear cropping (oh, teh HORRORZ!) to crating vs kenneling, on up to owners who shave their dogs for summertime. It seems that no pet owner is doing it right, doing it well enough, providing well enough, giving enough room, spending enough money, time or what have you on their animals. But unlike the past, instead of people shaking their heads in disapproval, they seem to feel it is incumbent upon them to accost people they feel are not 'doing it right,' or worse, call the authorities on virtually any pretext. And I did not use the word 'virtually' by accident; some of these people preen about this as if they were doing something virtuous instead of just inexcusably irresponsible and rude. And this is even worse when people act out of ignorance and think they are being noble.
One of the most common accusations is 'neglect.' Anything from buttonholing people at Petsmart because their dog is 'too thin,' to calling the authorities on a rancher for 'starving' a horse, or having animals in supposedly 'deplorable!' conditions. People, let me tell you something: Even if you *think* it's your business... it probably ISN'T. Those 'filthy'' rabbit cages? Are scheduled to be bleached tomorrow, but that is just what rabbit cages look likeafter three days, and no it is not reasonable to bleach them twice a day. The rabbits are just fine, they are fat and sassy, stop obsessing about them, they EAT their damn feces for God's sake! It's how they digest their food; they are a semi-ruminant like cows, and they run their food through twice to digest it. They save their bunny pellets in their wild burrows and EAT them. So stop worrying about a few in their cage, mmmkay?? It's not *filth* it's a normal part of their DIGESTIVE process...
That "matted" dog? May look unkempt, but he FEELS just fine. No, he isn't unhealthy, or in any discomfort or distress. He isn't even necessarily unloved. You can't see it under his hair, but he's in good body weight, and his teeth and gums are nice and healthy, his eyes are clear, and he is HAPPY. It may not suit YOUR idea of how a dog should be kept, but in honest truth? If it isn't YOUR dog, it isn't YOUR business. Just like it's not really your business if someone is too poor to dress their kids in better than rags. You may think that's awful, but in raw truth, the kids may be more loved and better cared for than many who live in better circumstances with less caring parents. YOU CANNOT ALWAYS TELL BY APPEARANCES, AND ASSUMPTIONS BASED ON APPEARANCES ARE USUALLY WRONG.
That 'starving!' horse out there, that you are so hot to call the authorities on? He's arescue. He's only been there a few days; and just over the hill? is an entire round bale. Of hay. For him. Then again, maybe that skinny horse is ill and has been under a vet's care. But you can't see that from the road can you? Yet it did not stop you from picking up the phone and calling the cops in a fit of noble glee. Did it make you feel good? Did it feed your need to be important, to be 'proactive' as an animal savior? Did you enjoy the drama, and your part in it? Did you give a moment's thought, at all, to the many ways your actions could hurt, instead of help?
Or, maybe she's old. Old animals often look awful, maybe for months, but they still enjoy a slow ramble around the yard, peaceful contemplation in the sunlight, a quiet ear skritch and a soft word from their best buddy. Your helpful 'intervention' insures that instead of being allowed to die on her own terms, she will be euthanized maybe weeks sooner when the authorities get involved. And instead of a bittersweet, gentle goodbye, with her grieving best friend gently holding her as she slips away; no, her loving owner will get to remember a sharp knock, a scuffle with authorities, and his best buddy being yanked from his arms. And HER last moments will be terror and confusion as she is ripped away from her life mate, searching fruitlessly for his scent, the sound of his voice; while some professional 'in charge' pushes a cold needle in her leg and the lights go out...Thanks a lot. It also ensures that if any of this guy's neighbors have a sick animal, they are going to err on the side of caution and instead of giving it a chance to get better, they will want to prevent that knock on theirdoor, so they will put it down immediately rather than have some well meaning fool call the law on them.
Because, you see, it isn't as simple as the cops show up, see that the animal has water and food, and say, "Excuse me! As you were, sir!" and go off again. There is usually a hearing. Even if you are not guilty, no one needs the hassle of answering an animal abuse complaint, particularly when most such charges end up in the local news and you are ever after shunned by your neighbors, no matter the outcome. Once you have been accused of animal neglect or abuse, you are guilty in the eyes of the public, forever after. Your name will be spread as far as the internet and righteous indignation can take it, and people will never forget, or let YOU forget, either. Dozens of people will team up on internet blog sites to denounce you, people who have never met you or seen a single one of your animals, but who are SURE you are the Spawn of Satan because the papers said so. And the papers, who were so quick to give copy space on the front page when the charges were brought and the raid was on, will be oddly silent months later when you are cleared of any wrongdoing. If they print anything at all, it will be buried on the back of an inner section, and few people will see it, and fewer will believe it. And of course, by then your animals, at least the ones who are still alive, will have been scattered to the four winds, neutered and placed in new homes by the authorities. Reputations are ruined, reputations that took years to build, and breeding programs that took maybe decades to establish are devastated, all on the basis of juicy hearsay.
Sometimes, the miscarriages of justice are caused by well meaning people wearing official badges, who simply do not know what an old animal looks like, or a dog with cancer, or what have you. And being human too, these officials are already angry because you told them these people were mean and awful, and just like you they love animals, it's why they took that job, and just like you they don't like mean and awful animal abusers either. So, the owners end up arrested by people who show up biased, already primed to see neglect, and willing to see it even if it isn't present, especially if it is not a species or a situation they are familiar with. Those are bad enough, but I could cite you several examples with documented proof that the owners were telling the truth, that their accusers were either misled or malicious, and yet their animals were taken anyway, and often killed either by euthanizing or mishandling on the part of the 'rescuers.'
Or, chillingly often lately, the animal control people tasked with answering the complaint are people with their own agenda, and too often, owners become entangled unwittingly in a humaniac sideshow, as different animal rights operatives such as H$U$ or the A$PCA compete for the right to steal their animals under color of law and 'adopt' (excuse me: SELL) them to new homes. Think I am being alarmist? No. This has already happened to countless animal owners, even top breeders with plenty of show trophies and years of experience. Heaven forbid that they have a dirty rabbit cage, or the authorities show up early in the morning (their favorite time) before the owner has had their morning coffee, and long before they have had the chance to clean the pens for the day. Those 'dirty' pens will be used as evidence of abuse and neglect, not the natural daily business of caring for animals. John Stoessel did an exposee on this very subject on 20/20; they hired a private veterinarian who examined animals taken on the pretext of being 'abused' and 'neglected' and determined that they were not abused whatsoever. Just profitable for the shelters, who had sometimes arranged for buyers BEFORE the raid. Things that make you go, "Hmmm."
I have friends and clients who are afraid to take their service dogs out in public. Dogs that are impeccably trained, well behaved, and essential for their well being: but they are afraid to take them out in public. Why? Because their dog is an adolescent male, and he is going through the 'uglies,' and for an adolescent male dog of many large breeds, that means that he will be thin. Not dangerously thin, not unhealthy in the slightest, but lean and ribby. Or, their dog is a sighthound, like an Ibizan or a Greyhound, and those animals are very lean and ribby, even with hip bones and backbone showing, when they are in good and fitcondition. Yet try getting people to believe that. We love our animals, we do, and we tend to like 'em on the roly poly side; chubby and cute, despite what a toll this excess weight takes on them over a lifetime. Most pet people, who are generally accustomed to keeping their animals way too heavy, already think a healthy, active and fit dog is 'too thin' because you can see the last rib (which is normal and desirable!) They are beyond incensed at a dog who actually is showing ribs, and they want everyone within hearing distance to know about it. Doesn't matter that it's a breed where the hip bones are supposed to be visible, like the Afghan or other sighthounds. In many breeds this is normal, but some people refuse to believe this even if you get a book and show them. They will sniff that you are just making excuses for your neglectfulness; that dog is TOO THIN! I can see his RIBS! Never mind that this is a working dog, an active dog, who is in harness, or running up and down the fence all day, or hunting, or handling livestock and dealing with puberty... could you be mistaken? NO! Let's drag that owner out and shame them LOUDLY in public at the market! Everyone should SEE what terrible people they are! And let's not care if maybe the reason they need a service dog is because they are suffering from some form of emotional distress, like PTSD; that makes no difference! They are TERRIBLE, AWFUL PEOPLE and we will call them out for it, by God!
Here is the thing: None of us like to see animals abused and neglected. And all of us want to see real abusers brought to justice. But, far too many people currently are infected with what I call 'saviour mentaility;' they are all wrought up and wanting to 'save the animals!' even when they don't need to be saved; even when they have already been saved. There is a right way, and a wrong way, to go about helping animals that are genuinely in distress. There is no excuse for jumping to conclusions, attacking people, and acting in ways that only make things worse. This behavior is based on the mistaken idea that somehow, ouropinions about animal care should have the force of law. But the problem here is, no two people can ever agree on what is 'proper' care. Furthermore, often what is perceived as 'neglect' is less about any genuine difficulty for the animal, and more about unreasonable or excessive expectations from people long on opinion but short on actual husbandry experience. If you are one of those people who just cannot see others doing things you do not approve of, without feeling the need to publicly shame and blame, here is a really easy suggestion: NUNYA. And if you cannot live with that, if you really believe that you are dealing with possible neglect, here is another suggestion: Try asking. Politely. Instead ofassuming, and challenging people in a booming, accusatory fashion. Why not save the righteous indignation and the puffed up cheeks for when you are really sure of yourself, eh? Stop knee jerk reacting every time you see a dog without an inch thick pad of fat wobbling around on its butt... ASK. Ask nicely. "He seems to be a bit on the thin side; is there a medical issue?" in a concerned, interested voice, instead of "How DARE you take an animal out in public in that condition?! You should be brought up on charges!"
Can you see the difference? Because in the first case, I will smile and tell you, "Actually, no; he's just a silly male going through the adolescent uglies. He eats everything that isn't nailed down just like a human teenager, and never gains an ounce; but he should be growing out of this phase soon." Which should put your fears to rest without harming a soul. And in the second case, if you are belligerent enough, that dear li'l doggie you are trying to help may take offense that you are accosting its owner and bite you. And from where I stand, you will roundly deserve it.
You can read more from Lenna at MotleyDragon's Hoard
Check THIS blog post for a way to get educated on the issues with concise bits of information regarding the truth of the matter; you can gain knowledge about the situation without becoming overwhelmed and can easily share what you have learned with others so as to shed light on this very serious issue.