Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Want to stop animal abuse? Start by reporting it

Katie the tiny kitten in her bed
Katie, one of my many rescue projects.
Like many animal lovers, I become wild with anger when I hear about animal abuse cases. Yesterday, for example, I was incredibly discouraged to hear that a woman in Damascus was living in a home with 97 animals. Yep, I said 97. When I thought of the conditions those animals must have lived in, I started to feel that familiar wave of anger and grief begin to rise.

But, there is one ray of hope in that story. As mentioned on the Oregon Humane Society website, the animals were rescued, in part, because a friend of the woman reported the abuse to the authorities. One person chose to speak up for those animals, and that person was able to help turn the tide and get the animals they help they need.

It might sound like a simple thing to do, to simply speak up and report something that looks like abuse. But in reality, it's really easy to look away and keep our mouths closed. We may want to avoid upsetting our neighbors or alienating our friends. We may think that abuse isn't our business. We may wonder what good one voice can do in the face of so much indifference.

I wonder what would happen if we all banded together and made an effort to protect these helpless animals? What if you spoke up the next time you saw someone beating their dog? What if you reported the neighbor with 10 dogs chained in the backyard? What if you agreed to help spay and neuter the feral cats in your neighborhood? What if we all took off the blinders and started talking? How many animals could we save?

Direct action, such as taking in an animal and helping it prepare for adoption, isn't right for everyone. As I mentioned before, doing direct rescue work takes money and for many families, money is just too tight right now. I've done direct rescue several times, so I'm speaking from experience here. But speaking up is free and it's easy. It's something all of us can do, right now, to help.

If you see animal abuse, contact the non-emergency police line in the city or county in which you live. Report what you've seen, and take pictures, if you can. If the issue doesn't resolve, kick it up a notch by calling your local humane society or animal shelter. Show those pictures and file a report.

Yes, it can take time for those reports to work through the system. And yes, doing these things means talking about something that makes many of us uncomfortable.

But the animals need us. Together, we can change things.