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What we can do to protect animals from abuse

Judy Cameron, Gerdy’s Rescues

The issue of animal abuse concerns all of us. Here are some reasons why it happens and what can be done to prevent and stop it.

Using animals in medical experiments

When a medical lab uses live animals, we ask if it is necessary to test on animals. In the case of research into human medical conditions and diseases, there appears to be no substitute. All we ask is that the animals be treated with respect, handled and cared for gently and humanely.

When testing cosmetics and household cleaners, it seems the concern is for possible misuse by humans, for example to discover what happen if a shampoo were ingested by a child or other products were applied without regard for the manufacturer’s indications.

It seems that extensive research is done for off-label use, either accidentally or intentionally. Again, these animals deserve respectful care and not the rough handling as seen on some recent TV programs using hidden cameras. The perpetrators in some cases are fired when they are caught, but what about those labs who don’t have a whistle blower who wants to expose the abuse, or come to the attention of investigative journalists?

Who knows how far-reaching these inhumane practices are? Recently CBC’s Marketplace disclosed that oversight and the assignment of responsibility are sadly lacking and that governments need to tighten inspection and control over these labs. Not only should animals be protected but those who abuse them should be fired.

If you need protection for the climate, so do they

Owners sometimes unintentionally mistreat their pets. We often see it in others but often fail to see it in ourselves. Ignorance is not bliss for the dog being exercised by an owner riding his bicycle on a hot summer day. It is not uncommon to see owners completely oblivious to their dog, who is panting, running as fast as he can without protection on his feet from the scalding hot pavement.

If the person riding the bike had to run barefoot as fast as he could on hot pavement dressed in a fur coat, wouldn’t that be the end of it? If you cannot hold your hand in place for 5–7 seconds on a sidewalk or paved surface, it is too hot a surface for your dog’s footpads.

On hot summer days, walk your dog early in the morning or the evening. If you must walk your dog on a hot sunny day, stay in the shade and make the walk short. If your dog will wear them, you can buy special dog boots for hot sidewalks, but still keep a mid-day walk, a short walk.

Sunburn is a big issue with dogs. Light pigmented noses on dogs can get sunburned. A longhaired breed with a summer shave can get sunburned. That is what the doggie t-shirt is for – to cover the back. Make sure it’s loose fitting, but a solid weave.

Ask your vet for advice if your dog has little fur on the ears. For winter, if you can go outside without a coat on, so can your dog. Otherwise a dog coat for our climate is essential. If you have salted sidewalks, your dog needs dog boots that protect from the salt, not just any dog foot covering! You can buy them at any good dog supply store. Keep in mind that if your dog walks a long distance on a very cold day without proper boots, his paw pads can freeze, resulting in vet treatment, or, in extreme cases, euthanasia.

Did you know that driving with the window down or partially down so your dog can stick her head out can result in the death of your dog?

At Gerdy’s Rescues we hear a lot of “if I had only known” stories about giving the family dog a nice drive. Dogs have actually been thrown out of car windows when the car made a sharp turn and was struck by the car from behind. They have also fallen out of the car window and died.

If you have the window open and the dog is looking out and shifts her weight, she can catch a claw on the window closing mechanism, and be strangled.

Too much “love” can kill

Do you overfeed your dog or cat? You can literally kill your pet with kindness. An obese pet can suffer diet-related conditions that shorten her life, put too much stress on joints necessitating surgery. An earlier death by disease of the internal organs is possible, and it’s cruel.

If you use a dog park, don’t join the others socializing with their Tim’s but watch your dog all of the time and be ready to move fast, leash in hand, if a dog fight breaks out. Remove your dog from the dog park if you are nervous about even one other dog. People take unfriendly dogs to dog parks and it is up to you to prevent harm to your dog.

Watch for the pool

If your pool doesn’t have a safety fence, get one! Dogs can be at risk if only forgotten for a minute around a pool. Tiny dogs are very vulnerable. They cannot get out themselves. Teach your larger dog to use the pool steps to get out or get a device made for dogs to exit pools. Flotation devices are good but you need to supervise to see if the dog is tired or getting cold. Guests should look after their dog.

Microchip them

Dogs and cats should be microchipped to help track them if they get lost. If picked up by animal control they are more likely to be returned home. Be aware of your own back yard. Is your gate securely locked when not in use? Pay attention on a dog walk, especially if you have a purebred dog.  People can be followed home for a later theft of the dog by break-in or from the yard when the dog is there alone. Remove all cute dog signs from your property, even Beware of the Dog: they encourage dog thieves.

Cats are curious

A cat allowed outdoors eventually will wander off. There are sick people out there: protect your cat by keeping him inside. Do not advertise your kittens (sterilize any cat you bring into your home) on the internet, Kijiji, or Craigslist. People who torture animals, especially cats, answer those ads and are good actors. Cruelty to animals is far more common than what we’d like to think. When looking for someone to mind your pet, ask for references and check them out. Better still, use a quality boarding facility.

Animal abuse happens in private

Animal abuse doesn’t happen in public. It thrives indoors, where no one will report it. People don’t want to get involved and they may fear reprisal. It thrives in the country with dogs chained to doghouses in isolation and even in townhouses where older people are isolated with a pet they can no longer care for.

Cruelty can sometimes be the result of ignorance, and better information can prevent it.

One Comment

  1. Sandra Brown says:

    In a beautiful world, where everyone is kind and respectful towards all living things, then, and only then, would it be possible to even imagine that test animals could be dealt with respect, handled and care for gently and humanely. We can’t even get along with our neighbours in the manner you are asking us to deal with animals. I really believe this suggestion is well meaning but pure naivety. The reality is test animals endure horrible consequences from experiments. What will make us stronger usually ends up killing them to get us there.

    I support and have the utmost respect for Gerdy’s rescues but I believe this loving article and attitude is being projected upon a human race where cruelty and torture are part of the human condition, where the most vulnerable are prey. We need strong laws and appropriate punishment to even make a dent in this problem of abuse. That is why we will have a mayor who gives us a rodeo in Montreal to celebrate 375 years of “civilisation”. And why we have horses pulling caleches in July/Aug heat behind car exhausts to entertain tourists. And why we have factory farming in industrial proportions. It’s too sad.

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