Watch and listen for pets that are being tormented or tortured by troubled teenagers or children, and call the authorities immediately to save their lives or talk to their parents as soon as possible. Even if animals are not physically injured, the emotional trauma resulting from intentional torment can create life-long fears and a potential for dire consequences.
Gucci and the Good Samaritan who loved him
On Wed., March 24, 2010, 16-year-old Gucci died. He was not “the” fashion designer–he was a dog who survived torture, and like Sunbear, inspired an animal abuse felony law, this one in Alabama called “Gucci’s Law.” The husky-chow mix was a sociable and handsome dog, and the distinctive ear stubs and facial scars from his ordeal made him recognizable everywhere. He became a celebrity, making countless appearances and even was featured in theatrical productions.
Gucci as a puppy was hanged by his neck and set on fire by a group of misguided youths in Alabama on May 19, 1994, and a Good Samaritan rescued him from certain death. Gucci was lucky that his torturers did not choose an isolated location. Instead of enduring extreme terror and pain until merciful death, he was rescued and immediately adopted by his rescuer, Doug James, who then provided access to the veterinary care and the treatments he needed to eventually recover fully. Gucci at the time of his rescue was owned by a teenage girl who wasn’t able to care for him, so she gave her dog to James.
James could have been too intimidated to take action, as many would have been. Or he could have called the authorities but Gucci most likely would have died horribly in the interim. He could have left Gucci in the care of his teenaged owner who did not have means to provide veterinary treatment. He might have provided immediate assistance and then passed him to an overburdened rescue or shelter. But instead this brave Good Samaritan went all the way and opened his home permanently to Gucci on the spot. Together Gucci and James inspired a law, and James devoted his life to spreading Gucci’s story, even writing a book about Gucci and other pet stories.
In one heartbeat, one warm spring night, while hearing a terrified puppy wail, James became an important animal advocate in Alabama. He took immediate action and he never looked back. Bless you a thousand times, Doug James; we share in your grief for the loss of your best friend Gucci. But be comforted by the fact that you and Gucci made a difference in Alabama and you both still inspire others today.
Watch for old spoiled garden waste and wild animal carcasses uncovered by spring rains and snowmelt. Clean it up. Even well-fed dogs and cats may attempt to feed on fragrant but tainted waste, and they can be sickened.
A Good Samaritan for animals starts at home
Our shelter dog Austin has a great nose, it goes without saying. And my effort last fall to feed old pumpkins to the neighborhood deer as a neighbor advised seemed like a good idea at the time. Except the deer apparently didn’t like them. Now spring has sprung, as they say, and the snow has melted off the old rotten pumpkins. Guess what. Austin with his talented coonhound nose was gloriously happy to discover them. He thought they were delicious and so he ate. He ate a lot. Guess what’s next: we were cleaning diarrhea for two days! Lovely.
I told this story to another neighbor who runs the front office at a large vet clinic nearby. She said that “this time of year we are overrun with patients who ate bad stuff that showed up as the snow melted.” She went on to say that sometimes “it’s just gastrointestinal,” but other times mold and parasites can create more serious problems. Sometimes dogs or cats get into fights over exceptionally attractive garbage such as an old deer leg, and need medical attention for bites.
Stray or wandering animals that may be underfed are particularly vulnerable to eating “bad food.” Not only will they eat less palatable or safe garbage, but they are perhaps less healthy and less able to withstand a bad bout of diarrhea and resulting dehydration and weakness. Real suffering can result.
It’s time for spring cleaning. Make sure your lawn and property are clear of old garden waste and dead rodent carcasses and other smelly stuff, and keep the compost in a contained area.
Weekly Watch Tip for week of Mar. 14:
Watch for protruding spines, hips, and ribs as winter coats begin to shed out. Do you see any dogs eating bark, moss, sticks, or dirt, or do you see these in feces? These are signs that a dog may be very hungry. Remember, you may be the only one who notices.
Starvation is a very common form of animal neglect
Isn’t it ironic that in an obese nation, in a nation where veterinarians say a common health risk for their pet patients is obesity, in a nation where you find plentiful food supplies in every gas station, that one of the most common forms of animal neglect is starvation? Animal control officers everywhere get frequently dispatched in response to calls from Good Samaritan neighbors to rescue a starving companion or domestic animal. Doesn’t it just boggle your mind?
Some families are financially struggling. Responsible families that can’t afford to feed their pets or livestock will make every effort to re-home them. The others will make no efforts and will bleat weak excuses to anyone who questions why their animals are so thin. Those animals are in trouble.
What can you do? If you see a problem, you can help those animals survive by taking action. If the situation is not urgent, talk to the family first, or leave them a Neighbor Note (download here). If the situation is urgent, call the authorities. Don’t give up if you don’t get a satisfactory response! Call and network in your community and outside of it to request help.
What is an urgent situation? Review this reference from Tufts University.
Remember that some thin animals are aged or may be recovering from an illness. Don’t automatically assume that what you see is starvation, or that the owners are neglectful. Always inquire politely and respectfully.
Weekly Watch Tip for week of March 7:
Watch for flooded back yards and cold, wet dogs and cats living in the muck. They may be at risk for skin diseases and sickness caused by drinking bad water.
So…you know of a dog nearby that are living in neglectful damp or wet conditions, and you want to help. Now what do you do?
What would help that dog? Take a look and figure out a solution. If you are on reasonable speaking terms with your neighbors, stop by in person as soon as you can with a suggestion. Say “I just don’t want your dog to get sick from anything contagious in that muck that the other neighborhood animals can catch.” Anyone can understand this reasoning. Be positive and cheerful. Offer to help move the dog house to a dry spot, or get dry bedding such as straw or pine shavings.
Maybe you don’t know your neighbor that well. Download “Neighbor Note” stationery here, and write a short letter to mail or slip inside the door. (Remember it is illegal to use mailboxes for non-mail items.)
Consider enlisting another neighbor or two in your efforts, especially if you can get someone who knows the person better than you do.
If neighborly visits or notes don’t have an effect, you might consider contacting local animal welfare authorities or experts for assistance or advice. Keep advocating for the poor dog until a good solution is put in place.