The word “tradition” is used to give weight and legitimacy to many things. Traditions, by default, need to be preserved and defended. But rhetoric aside, sometimes traditions shouldn’t be preserved. Sometimes, in order to build a more humane and compassionate society, the ways of the past have to be set aside. And sometimes, those ways of doing things just have to be completely obliterated.
Among the traditions that need to be eradicated for the sake of our humanity is the practice of abandoning dogs to die when you can’t (or don’t want to) take care of them yourself. Unfortunately, it’s one of those customs that seems to be undying, even in a world where animal shelters are common and easily accessible for most people.
Today, two stories about dog abandonment showed up at the top of our Google News searches. The first comes from England: Nine dogs were found wandering around the area of Winchester, Hampshire, and taken in by the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). When they were found, the dogs’ coats were so clotted with feces and mud that they couldn’t see; officers couldn’t even identify what breeds the dogs were until they had been washed and trimmed. In the pictures, they look less like dogs and more like extremely dirty, tangled mops.
Graeme Lunn, the co-director of Cedar Veterinary Group, said of one of the dogs: “I have never seen anything like this before, it has to be neglect. There’s no need for that dog to get like that. If it had the chance, it would not have got into that state.” Considering their condition, it’s unclear whether the dogs were dumped or escaped. In a way, the question is just one of semantics; it’s clear from their condition that any attempt to care for them had been abandoned long before they were found by authorities.
Closer to home, a dog was able to save three puppies who had indeed been dumped and left to die. A couple was walking their dog through Paso Nogal Park in Pleasant Hill, California, when the dog alerted them to something in a nearby trash can. Inside, the couple found a trash bag knotted at the top, containing three five-week-old puppies. Rick Golphin, deputy director of Contra Costa Animal Services, told reporters, “It’s not often that we find animals that are this cruelly abandoned. The puppies would have most likely not survived had they not been found that evening.”
Both stories are on their way to a happy ending; the puppies in particular stand a good chance of getting adopted because they’re so young. It’s hard to imagine any reason in this day and age that someone would dump a bunch of puppies into a trash can other than unbridled sadism. For those who genuinely can’t take care of dogs and cats, there are many options kinder than dumping them on the street or in the trash. Animal shelters may be overwhelmed, but even the most underfunded will be better options than abandonment. And thankfully, no-kill shelters are becoming more and more common.
Unfortunately, these stories show up much more often than they should. Neglect of unwanted animals is a tradition that just won’t die, despite all the alternatives available today. Even in the 21st century, we still have a long way to go in the ways we treat animals.
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