2017-03-22 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
On Thurs., March 28, Suffolk County Legislature is scheduled to vote in Hauppauge on IR1050, an amendment which will add “teeth” to the existing County animal abuse law. If passed, humane law enforcement and the police will be better able to protect Suffolk dogs forced by their owners to remain chained or penned outside.
The 3/9/17 “Pets” archived at www.babylonbeacon.com, spelled out new provisions and penalties enumerated in IR1050 aimed at owners who do not comply. March 28 is a week away, so there is still time for you to let your County legislator know via phone call or email how important this legislation is to the health and welfare of countless chained Suffolk dogs suffering a harsh, solitary confinement in their own yards.
A group of proponents of IR1050 from Long Island rescue groups and Town shelters spoke at the Suffolk County Legislature hearing in Riverhead on March 7. Below is my statement that day urging each legislator to support this necessary amendment:
“Hello. My name is Joanne Anderson. I’m a retired William Floyd teacher from Babylon Village who’s been a volunteer at Babylon Town Shelter since the early 1980s. I also volunteer for Last Hope Animal Rescue in Wantagh, and have written a weekly shelter rescue newspaper column in the Babylon Beacon for 34 years. I work in the Westminster Kennel Club press room so my dog background is varied, yet not directly entrenched in the “K9 abuse combat zone” like other speakers you heard today.
First, I’d like to thank our Suffolk Legislature, particularly Legislator Martinez, for realizing the need to strengthen protection for outdoor, chained dogs and to expedite prosecution of their offending owners. IR1050 is a well-spelled-out amendment with specific requirements.
Picture the life of a tethered dog chained in a yard 24/7 despite the weather raging outside. Countless dogs in Suffolk, most, but not all, Pits, are prisoners of a hell on earth. Their entire world is the circle of dirt created by the radius of their chain. Such a horrific geometry lesson! They have no choice or recourse to seek better shelter. Wild animals like squirrels can flee. Birds can fly away. Worms can go underground. Even stray dogs have a better chance of finding refuge from a storm. The Pits’ plight is ironic. Few other types of dogs have as sparse a coat to shield them from freezing temps or deadly sun.
Dogs are companion animals, supposedly our best friends. They want nothing more than some attention and love from their people. Instead, tethered dogs suffer in solitude, scrounging for food, clean water and a dry, warm place to rest their bones. Some give birth and nurse litters while chained; others twist their restraints around their legs; or hang themselves trying to escape over the fence. Still others intertwine cables, provoking deadly fights with their fellow victims.
If you tag along with the outreach volunteers from Almost Home or RSVP, you’ll hear them explain to owners why the dry straw they are providing goes inside not around the doghouse (also given to them by the volunteers). Whereas, if you tag along with Town animal control officers, you’ll discover people inside the house can’t (or won’t) tell you how many dogs are chained in their yard. They make excuses: “They are my son’s, my husband’s, my cousin’s dogs…” Who checks to see if the dogs are bleeding, covered with mange or wasting away? Heartworm, what’s that? The dogs seem invisible to the people who imprisoned them. They’re just discarded property like the broken-down ATV the Pit is tied to.
This lonely existence robs tethered dogs of crucial socialization too. Worse, some are used as sentries to warn drug dealers; others are forcibly trained for dog fighting. These scenarios lead to other crimes and pose threats to public safety.
However, when chained dogs do wind up at municipal shelters as strays or owner surrenders, we see many behave as if they checked into the Ritz Carlton. Life is good! They have vet care; a warm, inside bedroom; two meals a day plus plenty of walks, treats, love and attention from staff and volunteers. This isn’t doggy jail. In contrast to their prior existence, this is pet paradise. Think about how sad that is.
The Babylon Shelter director has an unusual window treatment in his office, decorated with a collection of cables, studded collars and embedded chokers removed with metal shears from the necks of incoming cruelty cases. His graphic draperies are a visual reminder to all of what many dogs, especially chained Pit Bulls, must have endured.
Thank you for considering this amendment. Thank you for prioritizing quality of life for chained dogs forced to survive outdoors. I urge all our County legislators to vote for IR1050. This amendment symbolizes a County commitment and true progress in the uphill fight to eliminate companion animal suffering in Suffolk.” Two Special Seniors at Babylon Town Shelter (631- 643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Abigale” 7-55 is a declawed, dilute tortie, eight years old, turned into the shelter because of a child’s allergies. “Andy Panda” 17-102 is a lovable, 12-year-old Beagle rescued from a horrific family environment. Both pets came upon hard luck and deserve caring homes.