Is it Animal Cruelty? Maybe or Maybe Not
It Might Look Like Animal Cruelty, but There Might Be More to the Story
Sadly, there ARE many cases of outright animal cruelty in our world. Dogs are often the victims due to their close association with people and their basically trusting nature. There are situations, however, that may at first appear cruel but aren’t. It pays to take the time to investigate before you start filing charges.
One example is the elderly Border Collie that lies out on your neighbor’s lawn or porch much of the time. He doesn’t move around much. You assume he is not being well cared for.
What you may not know is that the dog is 14 years old. He has arthritis and is not very active, but loves to lie out where he can watch the world go by. He is on a number of joint supplements and some pain medications to keep him comfortable.
Then there is the rowdy four year old German Shepherd Dog who lives down the block. He is active and bouncy, but he seems extremely thin to you. You suspect he is not being fed well.
What you don’t know is that this dog has IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) which is similar to Crohn’s Disease in humans. He is on a special diet and a number of carefully prescribed medications. If you called and animal control seized him, he would become very ill without his medications and special food. His owners are actually doing a great job keeping him reasonably healthy.
A third example might be a livestock guarding dog. Many farmers have a dog that lives with them and keeps their livestock safe, in addition to a herding dog who does chores. The livestock guarding breeds tend to be big, often white, often hairy dogs. Raised in the house with a family, they can make good companions. Raised in the barn with “their flocks”, such as sheep, they are wonderful assets to a farm.
These livestock guarding dogs receive veterinary care and are well fed. They hang with their flocks – seeking shade with them in summer, curling up beside them in the barn in winter and sharing water troughs for drinks. While they are socialized, they really only trust their “own” humans – after all, poachers and livestock rustlers are two of the things they guard against. By using livestock guardians, a farmer does not have to use poisons or traps or shoot predators. The dogs are the perfect ecological solution! They will deter coyotes, stray dogs, wolves and even bear on occasion.
Imagine you are driving by on a snowy day and see this big dog lying in a field with some sheep. No shelter in sight (though the barn is over the ridge and the sheep have chosen to be outside). The dog would actually suffer and be way too warm if he came inside a house. He is perfectly comfortable and happy to be outside with his sheep. When the sun goes down and temperatures drop, the entire group will head back to the barn. Literally one big happy family!
So stop and do some research before you throw out cruelty accusations in situations that aren’t black and white. If a dog looks thin and you know that dog belongs to a house-bound senior citizen, why not stop and offer to purchase and deliver some dog food? Donate some pet food when you drop off human food donations to your local food pantry. A fluffy Collie with some mats might belong to a disabled veteran who doesn’t have easy transport to a groomer and has difficulty doing the job himself. How about arranging for a mobile groomer or offering to transport the dog? There are places who offer resources for struggling pet owners.
In cases of true cruelty, however, be prepared to testify and back up your accusations. A dog in need may be counting on you. For the gray areas, investigate and offer to help before pressing charges. A beloved dog would rather be in his home with his favorite human than in a shelter.
Article By Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, Exclusively for Guild of Shepherds and Collies
Meet Our Evangelist: Deb M. Eldredge, DVM