An issue that has come up frequently at our humane society is animal cruelty at the hands of children.
I have seen several incidents in my 5 years with MLDHS. Here are just a few:
- A puppy being kicked around like a soccer ball between two people.
- Kitten’s being purposely run over by a child on a bike. One kitten died. 3 were rescued.
- A Kitten was tossed out of the window of a car over a fence. The person on the other side of the fence didn’t want it so she threw it back over onto the road, resulting in road-rash to the face.
- A young girl punching and slapping a kitten on it’s head and body. At the same time a group of young boys were in the back yard attempting to drown another kitten in the pool.
- A group of kids were attempting to stuff a kitten into a sewer drain.
- And most recently, a father told his children to “get rid of” their kitten, so they attempted to beat it to death.
Thankfully for these animals, there was someone nearby who saw their acts of cruelty and intervened. It pains me to think about the many other instances where there was no one around to intervene on behalf of the abused animals.
Education on how to treat animals with respect and dignity, as well as being a responsible pet owner, starts in the home. Unfortunately many of these children are not being taught these valuable life lessons, and as a result, the incidents mentioned above occur.
Humane Education is an important part of our organization. Humane Education Chair Jeff McCallum goes into the schools and gives presentations to children on how to properly treat and care for animals. It is unnerving how much some children don’t know about how to treat animals, because their parents never told them. Children learn from example, and if a proper example isn’t being taught in the home environment, then they are never going to learn. There has been increasing evidence that animal cruelty can lead to violence towards people. Also, children that are exposed to family violence in the home are more likely to abuse animals as a means of imitating the violence that they witness on a regular basis. In some cases animal cruelty is a symptom of a much bigger problem, but the fact remains that some children are just not taught respect for animals. It only stresses the importance of Humane Education, and getting the information out to these children. If we don’t teach them, who will?
Our shelter works closely with the local schools and provides work experience, shelter tours, dog walking, and volunteering opportunities to students who have expressed an interest in it. It is extremely hard not to get discouraged when looking at the future of animal welfare when the next generation are exhibiting some nasty behaviors towards animals, but for every child that abuses an animal, there are a handful that are kind to animals and want to make a difference. We have a lot of great young volunteers who work hard on behalf of the animals.
Animal Cruelty is a crime, but due to lack of reporting, many of these crimes go unpunished. And even if they do enter the justice system, the majority of cruelty cases only result in a slap on the wrist, or a fine. They very rarely result in jail time. All that’s left are the dogs and cats that will forever carry the scars of their traumatic past, and the perpetrators are left to re-offend. People need to start taking animal cruelty at the hands of children VERY seriously. It is not “just a phase”, or “boys being boys”. It is WRONG, and may just be a preview of negative behaviors to come from those particular children. What kind of adults are these children going to grow up to be if they have no compassion, no remorse, no respect for another living, breathing creature?
Humane Education can be valuable resource in reaching those children who have lost their way. However, lessons of respect for animals are ultimately up to parents. Teachers can even play an important role. If you are a parent, teach your children respect for animals at an early age. If you are a teacher, organize Humane Education presentations for your school. And if you see children being cruel to animals, please PLEASE step in, take the animal, call MLDHS and the RCMP. These children need to realize that actions have consequences.
Children are our future: We need to ensure that the future of animal welfare will be falling into the right hands.