April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and in this time of added stress and anxiety over our own lives and the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, this topic offers us an opportunity to look beyond ourselves to those creatures who are at our mercy all the time. There may be a natural tendency to look away from the suffering of others and to think that someone else will “do something,” but now is the time for all of us to open our eyes and aid everyone in need, human and animal. As social media platforms are keeping us connected, we can raise awareness of the fact that animal neglect and cruelty exists by using that same social media to aid those agencies that help the helpless.
Several organizations and platforms are involved in both spreading the word about this horrible scourge and in helping to actively prevent, combat, and mediate the effects of such cruelty. Petfinder, founded by Betsy Saul, is a groundbreaking agency that helps to reduce the number of homeless dogs and cats by encouraging microchipping and adoption. The ASPCA is gearing up for the 2nd annual National Dog Fighting Awareness Day on April 8 and is raising awareness of the states of neglect, abandonment, and abuse of horses in their Help a Horse Day on April 26. Countless animal shelters and adoption agencies struggle to combat the results of impulse buying and of pet owners’ lack of responsibility to sterilize their pets. Numerous rescue groups are raising awareness of examples of cruelty such as puppy mills, roadside “zoos”, and animal testing labs. Veterinarians can help by continuing to educate the public about the importance of spaying, neutering, and microchipping and also about animal behavior.
Each of us can make a difference. Altering our buying habits by purchasing local free-range chickens and eggs and locally raised beef and pork products whenever possible is beneficial. Visiting the local shelter to adopt your next furry baby will not only reduce the number of stray animals, but will also discourage the existence of puppy mills and disreputable breeders. Volunteering at a shelter will not only help that organization, but will also raise awareness of the needs of those shelters and all the good that they do.
Raising the profile and awareness of animal cruelty is like shining a light into a dark room; it lets everyone actually see the cruelty and become involved in its prevention. Buying humanely produced medications and beauty products may help reduce the use of animals in the testing of those products. Being aware that a person who engages in animal cruelty may have personality traits that can lead to actual human violence may help law enforcement agencies solve and hopefully prevent crimes. Thinking that you are loving your pets by taking them everywhere with you may inadvertently cause harm or even kill them if they are left in a hot car too long. Using dogs as fashion accessories isn’t “fashionable”; they need to have ample exercise and to engage in those instinctive activities not conducive to living in a large purse.
In this time of social distancing and fear, having another creature to be concerned about is very critical, and the love that our furry babies provide is a balm to our souls. Preventing the abandonment and neglect of animals is a reason why all of us should urge our elected and regulatory officials to insure that animal care, shelters, and veterinary services remain essential functions in all communities and states. Those soft, melting brown eyes are looking to us for help.