Did you know that in Washington State, our pets have the same rights as a chair or a desk or a rug? They have limited legal protection from their owners as they are considered property. It is my dream to restore dignity and basic rights to animals.
Some years ago, my Dad found Jade, our wonderful family dog, chained to a tree, starving, shivering, ignored, terrified. He called the animal shelter and was surprised to find out that they were not breaking the law. He knew that he could not have them arrested because he could not prove the level of abuse needed under the law to prosecute these people for their treatment of this dog. What he could do was offer to freely remove the animal. If the owners agreed, he could take the animal away and the owners would lose all ownership from that point on in that animal. That’s exactly what he did for Jade. Her owners did not want her. They agreed Dad could have her. Dad brought home a terrified little dog, who flinched from our touch, and when offered food, ate so rapidly she threw it up. It took time for our wonderful Jade to conquer her fear of people. Jade was a beloved member of our family for the next 14 years.
Some owners drop animals they do not want off at shelters. On Bainbridge Island, we have a wonderful service called PAWS. PAWS goal is to provide low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary financial assistance for pets of low-income residents of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap, a lost and found pet registry, and a pet adoption program. But volunteers at PAWS cannot enter homes and check for animal abuse. They cannot be responsible for hunting for abandoned animals that owners have dropped callously off in the woods. We need to help.
There are laws in Washington State regarding animal cruelty and they are clearly written and posted online. Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal. We need to make sure that our eyes are opened to the signs of cruelty and empower the citizens of Bainbridge Island with the knowledge. The simple adage, see something say something, applies to both child abuse and animal abuse.
We, the people, need to stop the abuse. We can start right here, right now, on Bainbridge Island. We can use the schools and the newspaper to continually alert people to what is animal abuse, what they can do to help stop this abuse, how the law can help, and who to call. We can simply list the laws as provided for us online by the State of Washington legal system. Although that’s a great place to start, we need to do more than that. We need to work to get unfair laws changed, the current laws that limit what the police and other government agencies can do to stop animal abuse. We need stronger, better laws. That is my dream and my goal. Martin Luther King said, “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul. When we look the other way.”