I love animals and, much like Literally, Darling’s editor-in-chief, I love animals more than people. My primary concern in horror movies is when/if the animal in the cast is going to meet its grisly death—screw the people. I still remember a book that I read in the sixth grade where a nasty character drowned puppies in a scene, after which I promptly stopped reading the series. My dreams (that smack more of nightmares) center around rescuing animals from creatively abusive owners. I became a vegetarian after seeing videos of pigs in gestation crates and trucks full of chickens rocketing down the highway and spewing feathers in its wake. I couldn’t stomach the meat, knowing the process the animals went through prior to their untimely death. As you might gather, I am incredibly protective of all animals and become absolutely furious when I see any manifestation of animal cruelty.
Unlike humans, I believe that all animals are innately good and are fully capable of offering their humans unconditional love. Animal behavior is a direct result of instinct and the treatment they receive from their owners, and thus blaming animals for aggressive or bad behavior is largely inaccurate. Fight or flight responses to threats are the norm, which results in fear-aggression or skittish animals, depending on their individual propensities. Abused humans typically still function out in the world and have a greater chance that someone will recognize, and ameliorate, the situation. Abused animals might never be found, as they’re put in cages in the back room, neglected in backyards, left in a corner after a beating, victimized in a puppy mill, or inhumanely treated and killed in the factory farm industry. Most animal abuse cases will never go reported, and thus the issue is rarely addressed and owners are not held accountable for their despicable actions.
Let’s cover some quick stats you might not have been aware of:
- The most common victims, according to the HSUS, are dogs, cats, and horses.
- It’s difficult to gather information on the prevalence of abuse in the factory farm industry as most states exclude livestock from their animal cruelty laws.
- In households where domestic violence takes place, pets are also frequently targeted.
- The cycle of abuse includes animals: “71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals” (source).
- Most fur on clothing sold in the United States is from China where there are no animal cruelty laws. In fact, makeup companies that sell products in China are required to test on animals before offering their products to human consumers.
- “Sports” that involve animals often have some sort of abuse in the background. Greyhounds that do not have racing potential, or have been injured, are often killed, even if they are otherwise healthy. Rodeos stress the target animals by shocking them, or otherwise physically harming them. Dog fighting still occurs in urban, suburban, and rural areas. (source)
- “Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set by the United States Animal Welfare (AWA).” (source)
Animal abuse is a daunting, and rather nauseating, problem to approach, so here are some steps you can take.
Advocate With Your Money
Look for ways to buy clothing that is free of any animal products—like leather, fur, etc. I don’t care if it looks cute, there are plenty of other humane options out there. Also try to buy makeup products that you know are cruelty-free. I’ll admit that this is harder than I initially realized when I set out to try to buy all cruelty-free makeup products, but this guide is pretty helpful. Do the best you can, as I will be the first to acknowledge that it’s difficult since most big brands (Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Walmart, etc) test on animals, and those brands are EVERYWHERE.
Eat less meat, go completely vegetarian, or buy animal products that you know treat their animals humanely—e.g. cage-free eggs. Big corporations, like Walmart (can you tell I hate Walmart?) have been captured on video treating their animals with sickening brutality, so it’s worth it to do your research.
You can also donate to your country’s humane society, or even just your local shelter.
Fight The Pit Bull Myth
The rampant misconceptions about pit bulls could be an entire piece in and of itself but I’ll attempt to be brief. To be blunt, pit bulls are NOT human-killing machines and they will not “turn on you” while you’re lounging on your futon. Pit bulls actually include a wide range of dogs that are more accurately classified as pit bull-type dogs, and often the media just smacks the label “pit bull” on any dog violence story without finding out the actual breed. The behavior of pit bulls is primarily centered around their incredibly loyal personalities. Pit bulls are very strong, smart animals that have been bred to fight in gladiator-type rings since the 16th century in Britain—often going up against other dogs, bears, bulls, and other larger wild animals. Due to the pit bull’s loyalty and desire to please their owners, they will literally fight to the death rather than disappoint their handlers. The combination of loyalty, intelligence, and strength are what attract questionable people to acquire these dogs to “guard” their homes. Often, they are not spayed or neutered and thus there are more pit bull-type dogs in animal shelters than any other dog breed—which leads to frequent euthanization of this breed. In reality, pit bull-type dogs are the victims in our misled society.
Like any other animal, pit bull-type dogs are a result of potent genetics and their owner’s treatment. They are completely capable of being a family dog, and loyally serving their humans and any other pets that might also inhabit the house. If you rescue (which I strongly encourage), you need to know what you’re getting into. Your pit bull rescue will need lots of training, love, exercise, and tasks and toys to keep their intelligent brains out of trouble. IF you get a rescue (really any type of rescue) and expect them to come without any behavioral issues, then you have no one to blame but yourself for what happens after that. Rescues will have issues because they have often been to hell and back before you adopted them. You can work on these issues and have a wonderful relationship with your dog, but to ignore the strong likelihood of some issues is just dumb. I recommend the book Pit Bulls For Dummies for a great reference and comprehensive coverage of this misunderstood, and noble breed.
Report Suspected Animal Abuse Cases
It’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Animal control officers will specifically deal with the situations, and can usually be contacted through your local shelter. They are essentially the animal advocates in legal situations, such as hoarding, dog fighting, and physical or neglectful abuse.
Adopt Rescues And/Or Foster
Not only will you be rescuing an animal from euthanization, but you will also avoid funding puppy and kitten mills. In addition, adopting an animal makes space for another animal to be housed rather than euthanized if the shelter runs out of space. Animal shelters are often perceived as negative, but after volunteering at my local shelter, I realized that they are doing the best they can. They treat the animals with kindness, respect, and give them a chance to find good homes. Yes, often they will be euthanizing shelters but that is a result of owners neglecting to adequately care for, and spay and neuter their animals. Don’t blame the shelter for situations that stupid owners created.
Sometimes you can’t rescue any more animals, but often shelters have fantastic fostering programs set up that will allow you to give animals a home to recuperate from illness, or grow big enough to be adopted. It’s a rewarding experience that typically doesn’t require the financial commitment that adopting does.
I completely understand that there are myriad issues out there for you to advocate for, and there are only so many things you can fight for without being spread too thin. But the issue of animal abuse is in your life, whether you like it or not, and there are definite small steps you can take to combat this insidious problem. Becoming educated on the issue is a big move, and combatting breed myths and reporting suspected abuse cases are other helpful changes. There are so many ways to help out our beloved animal companions, and my hope is that this piece will help you take those first steps.
Thinking of getting a dog or cat? Check out these quick guides:
What steps do you take to prevent, and/or address, animal cruelty? Comment below or tweet us @litdarling!
P.S. Feel free to send us pictures of your darling fur babies—we adore ours and would love to see your pets!