The worst sin is to be indifferent to your pet’s wellbeing

2013-04-18 00:00

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent. That is the essence of inhumanity. — George Bernard Shaw

THE subject I would like to touch on today is not so much about canine behaviour, but rather that of human behaviour.

Prospective new car owners will spend hours, if not days or weeks, visiting car dealers, browsing websites, speaking to existing vehicle owners, test driving and scraping the finance together, before deciding upon and purchasing the selected item. After the acquisition, much time will be spent in washing, polishing, servicing and maintaining, even if it means leaving a cosy bed an hour earlier for these purposes.

How much effort and time do we allocate before and after when adding a member of the canine world to our family? “Oh, it’s just a dog. Give it food, water, a place to sleep and do its business, and everything will be fine.” If only it were so simple. Sadly, many dogs are subject to this lifestyle and just accept their little lots in life, never complaining or moaning. They remain faithful, irrespective of inappropriate treatment

I see or hear about Great Danes and ridgebacks confined to areas no bigger than the average double garage, collies and old English sheepdogs never being groomed, Rottweilers and bull terriers turned into monsters for security purposes. Malnutrition, disease, confinement and exploding fireworks, among others, are some of the sad situations in which many pets find themselves.

How many of our dogs regress from a cute puppy to a rejected and abandoned dog, mutt or nuisance, which only has human contact when fed, dipped, or taken to the vet. Puppy socialisation and education are often more of an inconvenience than the norm.

About 10 years ago, during a television programme about the RSPCA in Britain, I watched as staff removed a 15-year-old Border collie from outside a block of flats. He had spent virtually his whole life chained up. While walking to the animal-control vehicle, it was blatantly obvious how bewildered and fearful he was. This sight and knowing about the horrendous conditions in which he had been kept had me blinking back tears. Due to his age and inability to adapt, the decision was made to euthanase him.

Over the years, I have often seen pets treated in a manner that could only be described as inhumane. My approach is always to try to assist with owner education, but, unfortunately, when sound advice falls on deaf ears, one must take the hard route. In cases of perceived acts of cruelty and neglect, I suggest people contact the relevant organisations or authorities, and try to obtain evidence in the form of video footage or photographs.

Life for the average dog is a mere 12 years, maybe more if their owners are so blessed. How would one sum up such a period for our so-called best friend? Would it be one of immense sadness, because a happy and joyful existence ends with the final goodbye? Or will it be one where death results from a broken spirit, which succumbed to the suffering found so often in our so-called civilised society?

Life would have little meaning without my dogs. They are faithful companions and protectors, providing endless enjoyment in my interaction with them. Just looking at them stirs up pleasant feelings. Indifference is something I am unable to comprehend.

• Steve van Staden is a canine behaviour specialist and can be contacted via his website www.dogtor steve.co.za Advice is only dispensed in face-to-face meetings with owners and their pets.

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