Watch Tip: Physical Punishment

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

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Watch for physical punishment of cats, dogs and other helpless companion animals, such as swatting, whipping, kicking, beating, and throwing. Frustrated owners who don’t know how to train their animals lose their tempers and become violent. Some frightened animals will defend themselves with teeth and claws, some will escalate their unwanted behavior, some will panic and defecate, and others will utterly collapse in terror. They may be traumatized for life. Please intervene to calm the situation or call law enforcement immediately.

Excessive physical punishment teaches the pet that his owner is dangerous

The pet likely has no idea why his beloved owner turned on him. His protector is suddenly crazed, dangerous, and hurtful—the very opposite of a protector. His owner is unpredictable and can’t be trusted. The pet might extend that distrust to all people, or all men, or all children. The pet might begin to see the world as a dangerous place because he doesn’t have a protector anymore. He must fend for himself.

A puppy waited in the back seat of a sedan in a Colorado Walmart parking lot for his family to return, worried. Finally he saw them. He watched them approach and grew more fearful by the moment. He trembled and circled uneasily on the seat. He started to whine. Finally he defecated in panic. He tried to crawl under the seat. The door opened and his owner picked him up by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the ground while still gripping his neck, shouting obscenities. Again the puppy was picked up and thrown to the ground, and again and again. The puppy flung his head from side to side, trying to bite the big hand that held him by the neck. The family watched unhappily.

Two woman ran up, screaming at the abuser to stop. He stopped and held his dirty trembling puppy, breathing hard, red-faced. He shouted in frustration that he beat his puppy because “he always shits in my car!” (Very understandable!) He told his family to get in the car with the puppy and they drove away fast. But the women got the license plate number and reported the incident to police, who promised to follow up.

I worry about the fate of this dog today and about the fate of many thousands of dogs and cats treated similarly. If they end up in municipal pounds, their lives of terror and neglect will finally end in the “euthanasia hold,” a method of restraining a struggling animal that shelter workers use to reduce the likelihood of being bitten.

Keep in mind that frustrated pet owners beating their animals are likely not criminal-minded individuals but they are out of control and could be dangerous to you as well as the pet. Use all care when approaching them or call 9-1-1. Animal abuse is a felony or misdemeanor in all 50 states.

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