I’m getting kind of burned out on advocacy lately. Well…not advocacy exactly, but advocates. Specifically, advocates whose outrage is disproportionate to reality.
Recently, a story and photo started circulating on social media sites. The story is about a mother and son in New Mexico who were arrested on animal cruelty charges after they posted a photo of their puppy on Facebook and somebody called the authorities.
Just about every advocacy page is blasting these people, and I am by no means excusing their actions…but…
While it’s absolutely true that what they did was stupid, is it true that it was felony animal cruelty? I think we all need to just calm the hell down. I’ve read half a dozen articles about this story;
Essentially, what happened was that Mary Snell put her 8 week old Chihuahua puppy in a Ziploc bag, held it open, had her son take a photo, and posted the photo to Facebook. The reason she gave was that they were trying to show how tiny the puppy was, and it wouldn’t hold still. So Frick and Frack solved the problem by putting the animal in a see-through bag.
Stupid is as stupid does.
I agree that a Ziploc bag is no place for a puppy…but there is no indication that there was malicious intent. There is no indication that they kept the puppy in the bag for any longer than it took to take the photo. The puppy, by all reports, was not injured. Witnesses say that they treat their pets well. So why all the outrage?
Authorities said the puppy couldn’t lift his head to get air and could have suffocated. But…he didn’t. And I don’t believe that Stell would have let the puppy suffocate. There’s no indication that she meant the puppy any harm.
There was a similar case last July, when Amanda Beals found her dog with his head inside her sandwich bag –caught red-handed stealing her lunch – and picked the dog up, (bag still on his head) and took a photo. I’m sure she thought it was hilarious. (ha ha, look at my doofus dog, caught red-handed!) But animal advocates weren’t amused then, either. They made a big fuss and she was investigated for cruelty. (To the best of my knowledge, she was not prosecuted) Beals didn’t put the bag on her dog’s head, she found him that way and simply recorded it – but advocates crucified her. Their fuss stretched from accusing her of purposely suffocating her dog to ‘take the damn bag off the dog’s head, don’t take a photo!’, but Beals loved her dog. If she thought he was in danger, do you think she’d have left the bag on his head?
There are so many horrible stories of animal abuse on any given day:
- Starved dogs , (an everyday occurrence)
- Pets set on fire (you would not believe how often this happens.)
- Pets tortured , (thankfully, only a couple of times a year)
- Stabbed , (again way more common than you might think)
- Shot , (occurrences increasing)
- Blown up! ! (thankfully, infrequently!)
…I don’t understand why people waste their time and energy getting all worked up over cases like this – cases where the animals weren’t hurt, weren’t in real danger, and the owners meant the animal no harm.
There’s kind of a lunatic fringe in advocacy, where people have completely lost their ability to put things in perspective; where people jump to the worst possible conclusion even when there’s no evidence.
It’s not just these two stories, either. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone comment that if a pet’s owner can’t afford some outrageously expensive veterinary procedure the pet needs, they shouldn’t have the animal. Is that really fair? Does anybody adopt an animal and expect that it will have a catastrophic health issue? Does anybody have a crystal ball that shows whether they will lose their job, or become ill themselves, or experience any number of financial setbacks that will render them helpless to pay for emergency vet care? Many pet owners find themselves in just this sort of situation, and the animal’s condition gets worse, and then people start shouting ‘NEGLECT!’ Before we start pointing fingers and assuming that the pet’s owner doesn’t care, wouldn’t it be better to get all the information, and assess the situation first? Maybe offer to lend a hand, instead of criticizing and condemning?
All this wasted energy could be so much better spent if it were redirected to criminal cases of abuse or helping those pet owners who need help.