by Michaela Gardner
Bojack the 3-year-old Plott Hound never got the chance to enjoy being a real puppy. Toys were a completely foreign concept to him when he was adopted by Lizzie Martin in April 2015. He had no interest in gnawing on bones or engaging in play with his new owner. What should have been a joyous time for Bojack and Lizzie was more confusing and terrifying than anything. Having known his previous owner, Lizzie inquired as to why her new puppy was behaving so strangely and cautiously. Finally, the original owner admitted that on a regular basis, Bojack had been “left alone, probably two to three days at a time even.” During these times of loneliness and boredom, the puppy would tear up trash and furniture—and suffer for it. His previous owner had beaten Bojack “pretty badly,” leading to anxiety and trust issues, particularly towards men.
With patience, time and lots of love, Bojack has begun to recover and regain his trust in humans. While Bojack’s story has a happy ending, the same cannot be said for most animals that suffer at the hands of human beings. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, at the beginning of August, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control discovered a deceased puppy that had been strangled outside of an apartment on Westchester Drive. Officers determined that the pitbull mix that been tied up and in turn hung itself while trying to escape. The owner of the puppy denied ever tethering the dog, but animal control reported that he had been previously warned not to tie the dog out unsupervised. This is a situation that could have been prevented had neighbors reported any suspected abuse.
Forms of animal abuse are not limited to the beating or neglect of companion animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists dog fighting, puppy mills and animal hoarding as some of the most common forms of animal abuse. Dog fighting pits animals that have been abused and isolated against one another for entertainment, and although “fights are not usually to the death, many dogs succumb to their injuries later, and losing dogs are often discarded, killed or brutally executed as part of the ‘sport,’” as explained on the ASPCA website. They define a puppy mill as “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” Puppy mills can sometimes overlap with animal hoarding situations, which “occur when an individual is housing more animals than he or she can adequately care for.”
Any of these situations can occur in any neighborhood in any city. Take the situation that occurred in April of this year in Clarkesville, GA, a quiet northeast Georgia town. Over 350 animals were taken from a property that was investigated after a complaint of excessive barking. Dogs, puppies, cats and a variety of livestock were all discovered living in “deplorable conditions,” according to the Now Habersham website. They were denied access to clean water and food. The director of Habersham County Animal Care and Control, Madi Hawkins, was quoted as saying, “We never expected to find such a large-scale operation in our own backyard.” Much of the evidence from the property pointed towards the operation of a puppy mill. Had a concerned neighbor not spoken up, this abuse could have carried on indefinitely and affected hundreds more animals.
So how does one go about detecting and reporting suspected animal abuse here in Athens? According to Patrick Rives, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Superintendent, “obvious signs are observing someone causing harm to an animal, an animal that is excessively thin, an animal with apparent injuries or loss of body function, etc.” If you have observed any of these indicators, there is a specific procedure to follow and information to provide in order to make a report, taken directly from the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government website:
- Name, address and phone number of the complainant
- Exact address of the location of the animal(s)—we must have a street name and number, including the apartment or lot number
- A specific incident or observation made by the complainant; in other words, the person calling must have seen an act of cruelty occur
Rives says that “the vast majority of cases we investigate are reported to us by concerned citizens. Reporting what you observe helps us intervene effectively.”
There are also ways to go about preventing animal abuse altogether. The Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) lists several ways to go about this on their website. Other than learning to recognize the signs of abuse, the GSPCA recommends first and foremost treating your own pets with “love and kindness” in order to set an example in the community. Teaching children to respect animals and understand that “animals are living creatures who have the ability to feel pain, joy and sadness” is another important aspect of preventing animal cruelty.
Finally, adopting from and volunteering with shelters aids in preventing the cycle of abuse by keeping innocent animals out of the hands of abusers and by helping to reduce the prominence of puppy mills. Take it from Bojack’s story: even the abused and neglected ones deserve love and a voice to speak up for them. Be that voice for countless innocent animals that are unable to speak up for themselves.
To make a report of suspected animal abuse in Athens-Clarke County, call animal control at 706-613-3540 or call 911 in an emergency.