My Patterdale Terrier Coco is now 18 months old. She had a very tough time as a puppy. Just before her first Christmas she was playing out in the garden. She came to the door and couldn’t get up the first step into the house. I found her right back leg was lifted and was behind her other back leg. When i picked her up she whimpered. I took her straight to the vet. They told me that her hip had dislocated and they were going to have to keep her in. This broke my heart. Coco is like my baby, i have never wanted children and would rather have hundreds of dogs . They said they would need to put a sling on her and give her some pain relief. The next day I rang to see how she was. The vet said they were keeping the sling on and that they would be taking it off the following day to see if the hip would stay in place. They said that she was a bit off of her food at first and they found she preferred to be hand fed by the nurse. Typical Coco. So the day arrived for her sling to be removed. The vet rang to tell us her hip had re-dislocated and she would need surgery. This meant that they would need to remove her hip. The thought of Coco, still a puppy, having to go through this was beyond difficult. They said she could end up walking with a limp but her muscles, as she was young, would eventually form a replacement. So she had the operation. Now stupidly i had cancelled our pet insurance, This meant that with the treatment, two nights stay at the vets, x-rays, medication and now the operation, the cost came to over £1,000. We didn’t have this sort of money so i had to sell my car to pay for it. There was no way I wouldn’t go ahead with it. She had the op on the morning of Christmas Eve, I was even more upset that she wouldn’t be able to come home for Christmas. The vet called to advise the op went well and she could come home, I was so happy. It was around the clock care when she came home. She wasn’t allowed to eat for the 1st day as she was still groggy! She wasn’t allowed out and she wasn’t allowed to walk or jump. If she needed to go for a wee I had to pick her up and take her out. She constantly cried for days. The vet said after three days she should start to put her paw down. Two weeks had gone by and she hadn’t even attempted it. Back to the vet she went. They said she was an over dramatic puppy and gave her more medication. Approximately two days later, I threw a ball for her. She chased it and put her paw fully to the ground. It took a lot of time and exercise to get her better. Now Coco is like a different dog in a good way she’s happier now than she was before this happened. She runs faster and plays more. The vet and I couldn’t tell how or why this had happened to Ccoco but it makes me think she may have had problems before. I’m so glad shes okay. She still limps a little bit when she’s been on long walks or it’s cold but otherwise she’s perfect.
Just look at the story of Sadie, the German shepherd from Ecorse who was tied to the railroad tracks and left to die. People were outraged on behalf of the dog's owner. Even a police officer suggested, "She should sue them." Sadly, that's not as easy as it sounds.
Most states, including Michigan, set the legal value of an animal at whatever its price would be on the open market -- racehorse or goldfish, champion bull or fireside pal, all are considered no more than personal property. If someone causes the death of an animal, all the owner can ask for in damages is its fair market value -- "less depreciation," as one especially hard-hearted claims adjuster suggested. Sentimental value doesn't count; no matter how long you and your dog have been together or how much your cat means to you, if it's killed, you can't sue for more than you could sell it for.
Once upon a time, this approach made sense. Most animals worked for a living or were food producers more than human companions. But in contemporary society, things just aren't the same. By some estimates, there are over 100 million pet dogs and cats in this country. Some dogs guard their owners or hunt and some cats still catch rats and mice, but there is no denying that it is the social and psychological benefits of pet ownership that keep pet stores prosperous and veterinarians in business.
As I heard in a vet's waiting room: "Of course we brought her here; she's a member of the family!" Indeed, one survey found as many as 80 percent of pet owners describe their animal companions like that. Science has begun to recognize the strength of the human-animal connection. Since the 1980s, a host of studies have established the importance of the bond between people and their pets. One of the first found that people who owned dogs were more likely to survive after a heart attack. More recently, larger-scale studies have confirmed the association between pet ownership and better health.
The effect is particularly pronounced among elderly people. Pets alleviate the loneliness of the widowed, for example, and pet visitation programs in nursing homes make residents less depressed and more receptive to treatment. One assessment found a decreased need for medication, reduced tensions between residents and less staff turnover in a nursing home where animals were abundant and part of the center's daily routine.
Alzheimer's patients also benefit from contact with companion animals, and a 1990 study found that Medicare participants who owned pets made fewer doctors' visits.
When a pet dies, the bereavement process is similar to that of the loss of a well-loved human being. The evidence is abundant. At least 19 cemeteries (and two crematoriums) in Michigan are devoted exclusively to pets.
Across the country, grief counseling hot lines provide help to owners who have lost their pets. At the University of Pennsylvania, social work services have been available to bereaved pet owners since 1978. A modern bookstore features half-a-dozen volumes on coping with the death of an animal.
Why, then, does society persist in pretending that a poodle is the same as a piano? In Koester v. VCA Animal Hospital, Michigan's Court of Appeals recently agreed with a veterinarian that she should not be liable for the psychological loss to an owner whose dog was choked by a too-tight bandage. Although the judges were sympathetic, they declined to change the rule. The dog's owner has appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, but it has not yet decided whether to hear the case.
It is not so long in human history that women, children and others were seen, in legal terms, as merely property. We like to think that society has evolved since then. It is time we acknowledge that animals, too, are worth something more than their price at auction. Let's not let Sadie be forgotten.
BARBARA H. GOLDMAN is an attorney with the firm of Lopatin, Miller, Freedman, Bluestone, Herskovic & Domol in Southfield and a former chairperson of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Write to her in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226.
Set on fire, mutilated and scalded - just some of the fates experienced by animals in England during a shockingly violent period this fall. A string of brutal attacks from 25 September to 6 October has horrified England's RSPCA inspectors. Among the victims was a spaniel who captured the hearts of the UK public after her body was thrown in a river with a 10kg weight around her neck. RSPCA chief officer of the inspectorate Andy Foxcroft said the sudden escalation in violence had troubled staff and he urged the public to respect animals and report abusers. "Although we investigate a number of brutal incidents each year, this sudden glut of violent cases is deeply troubling," he said. "It is dreadful to realise that we live in a society where some people feel it is acceptable to harm animals in such vile ways.
RSPCA Web site "Everyone has a responsibility to protect animals from harm and prevent cruelty. We are asking the public to make a stand and to contact us or the police whenever they witness or suspect animal abuse is taking place," Foxcroft said. The shocking recent incidents included: 25 Sept - Cat's ear cut off and posted through (guardian)'s letterbox, in Liverpool 28 Sept - Body of weighted-down spaniel thrown in river, in Southampton 1 Oct - Kettle of boiling water poured over 12-week-old kitten, in Somerset 1 Oct - Youth caught on CCTV apparently kicking hedgehog to death, in East Yorkshire 2 Oct - Half a sliced cat placed on school steps, in Rotherham 3 Oct - Sheep possibly bludgeoned, legs bound and dumped by road, in London 3 Oct - Black Labrador allegedly shot with nailgun, in Nottinghamshire 4 Oct - Cat doused in petrol and set alight, in Bath 6 Oct - Cat killed by trauma to head and hung from tree, in Chichester 6 Oct - Teenagers inflict massive head injuries on elderly cat, in Somerset.
RSPCA director general Jackie Ballard said it was impossible to provide a clear explanation for this sudden escalation in violence, but warned against the possible dangers of animals being demeaned in entertainment. She said: "On our televisions we now see so-called survival shows where a chicken will be killed by amateurs for no other purpose than entertainment. We have celebrities eating live insects and crawling through tubes filled with rats. "We believe that at best this is demeaning to animals and at worst can involve suffering. Our fear is that people will become desensitized and feel it is acceptable to abuse animals for any reason." "While we have not yet proved a scientific link between the two, it cannot help our message of promoting kindness to animals," Ballard said. From January the RSPCA's education team, which helps teach children the value of respecting animals, will refocus its work in the parts of England and Wales where inspectors are at their busiest. Reproduce this Article on a Web Site or in Print Up to 25 education officers will aim to build stronger relationships with schools in these areas in an effort to target their work more effectively, helping teachers to integrate the animal welfare message into Britain's national curriculum.
"He's beautiful." And by "he," they mean him, Shilo, the horse I rescued from the killers four years ago. I paid the horse trader $50 more than the slaughterhouse would have paid him to keep him from putting that little grey Arabian onto the livestock truck bound for Texas. I liken it to the way Oskar Schindler bought freedom for 1100 Jews. Shilo is a healthy, sound, purebred Arabian. And one of the sweetest animals you could ever know, especially in light of the abuse he's suffered in human hands. Not only was he on his way to slaughter for human consumption abroad when I found him, but he had been used and seriously injured in the U.S.-based Mexican horse-tripping rodeos, known as the "Charreadas." I don't know how to respond to "He's beautiful." "Thank you"? For what? I didn't make him. I didn't create him. I can't take credit for his grace, his spirit, his fire.The moment leaves me feeling awkward. Speechless. There's a fine line among us. We recognize that animals have interests in their own lives, that they feel, think, reason, sleep, eat, drink, play, mate, dream, and die. But to whom do they belong? In your mind--as in mine--they belong to no one. Just as you belong to no one. Just as I to no one. But, under the law, animals "belong" to those who have bred, raised, possessed or purchased them. They are, legally speaking, our property. And we, legally speaking, are their owners. Except in rare cases, injuring or killing a dog or a cat, say, is a violation, not of the rights of the victims, but of the animals' "owners." In other words, the wrong committed wasn't to the animal involved, but to the property of the human being who owned that animal. Damages are paid by the violator to the owner, and the value is determined as to the monetary "cost"of the injured or killed animal. So I find myself, in those moments when visitors are admiring Shilo, unable to respond accordingly. I feel foolish thinking what they would think if they knew I didn't consider Shilo mine, even though I've paid to rescue him, pay to feed and house him, to train and groom him, to transport and medically care for him, even though I have the receipt in my hand from the kill buyer, proving that Shilo, under the law, belongs to me. It is difficult in those moments because I recognize that the law of the land, and the commonwealth itself, are speaking a completely different language than I am. At the risk of appearing the fool, on occasion, I've found myself appealing to the sensitivities of others. "He's beautiful." "Thank you," I say. I was sharing an e-mail with a new contact on the internet in regard to the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in France. And in our dialogue, I found myself using words that grated in my conscience--such as "owner." I was catering, again, to the ingrained conditioning of others so as to not appear the crazed animal rights activist. On second thought, however, our community has risen quite well above the semantics of language. Animal shelters don't encourage the general public to come in and "buy" or "purchase" a dog or cat. No. They encourage them to come in and "adopt" an animal. It isn't until the cash is exchanged and the documents are drawn, that the word "owner" appears in the dialogue. As long as we regard other creatures as property to be bought and sold, to be owned or mastered, we--as humans--will forever distance ourselves from the essence of our species: our ability to hold sacred the natural world, to view the other lives around us as gifts given to us by a great spirit, and, in so doing, regain our empathy. If we cannot--for animals--relinquish our rights to ownership, they will continue to suffer immeasurably--as did America's blacks suffer in the grip of human bondage--because their suffering will never be weighed for what it is, but for what it costs their legal "owners" in terms of the damages done to said owners' property. I'm guilty of it myself. Instead of remembering that long-term goal--animal liberation--I struggle in the difficulties of the moment and sometimes give in to my anxieties. But until we liberate our language, we will never liberate animals. It begins with us. It begins by removing the words "owner" and "property"--and any variation of those words thereof--from our vocabulary, no matter the social consequences. Until we take that step, the court systems cannot follow. "The law may tell us we can own animals," says Jeffrey M. Masson, author of the ground-breaking book, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives ofAnimals, "but the law also told us in the past that men owned their wives,and parents owned their children. We know this was wrong." Masson is also co-chair of the newly founded international campaign, "They Are Not Our Property; We Are Not Their Owners," spearheaded by In Defense of Animals. "We can be animals' friends," Masson adds, "their companions, their helpers, stewards and caretakers." Even their saviors. But we are not their owners... They are not our property. Does it sound familiar? It should. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, wrote, "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were notmade for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men." But, then, you already know that. Just as I know it. It's time, however, to brave new territory--in this case, by liberating our language. The In Defense of Animals' pledge--which it is asking you to sign onto--is simple: "Whereas, I believe that all animals deserve to be treated and respected as individuals with feelings, needs, and interests of their own, and whereas I believe that animals are not commodities or property to be bought or sold, disposed of, exploited or killed, I hereby pledge always:to live my life with an ethic of respect and consideration for all animals, rather than one of ownership in which animals are considered mere property. to adopt and rescue rather than buy or sell animals. to represent myself as a caretaker, guardian, companion, protector and friend of animals rather than their owner or master. to strive at all times to make the world a more just and compassionate place for all beings, human and non-human alike. "They are not brethren," Henry Beston writes about animals in The Outermost House, "they are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth." Shilo is a fellow prisoner. But he paws the ground and dances in place, arching his neck, as if he knows he's being admired. And then the inevitable response: "He's beautiful." I have found a new answer. "Yes," I say, "he is."