Paws for a Moment

Animal Cruelty: How You Can Help 

By Bonny Corbeil
St. John Tradewinds

“Kicking the dog” is a phrase that has become common use in the English language. However, we shouldn’t be so flippant when using a euphemism that describes an act of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is defined as acts of violence or neglect perpetrated against animals.

Animal cruelty includes overt abuse, dog fighting and cock fighting, and companion animals being neglected or denied necessities of care, such as food, water or shelter. Animal welfare organizations across the country work daily to educate people about how to care for their companion animals and how they can prevent animal cruelty.

So what can you do to help stamp out animal cruelty on St. John?
– Be aware. Report cruelty in your neighborhood to our Animal Care Center. At the base of all cruelty is ignorance. Those who are cruel to animals have often been abused themselves. At the root of abuse is the need for “power and control” over something. It is best to approach those who are cruel to animals with a certain amount of compassion as it is often learned behavior. Our purpose should be to educate people on the wrongs of animal abuse through education.

– Get to know and look out for the animals in your neighborhood. By being aware, people are more likely to notice, for example, that the dog next door who was once hefty has lost weight rapidly — a possible indicator of abuse.

– Learn to recognize animal cruelty. The following are some signs: wounds on the body; patches of missing hair; extremely thin, starving animals; limping; an owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal; dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, often chained up in a yard; dogs who have been hit by cars or are showing any of the signs listed above and have not been taken to a veterinarian; dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions; and animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owner.

– Call the ACC to report animal cruelty. We do not presently have the funding or the resources — particularly an animal control officer — to investigate animal cruelty, however we do the best that we can. With the support of our new administration, our V.I. Police Department and future funding, we will hopefully make strides in this important area.

– Provide as much information as possible when reporting animal cruelty. It helps to write down the type of cruelty that you witnessed, who was involved, the date of the incident and where it took place.

– Know the Virgin Islands animal cruelty laws. Bill #25 was passed by our Legislature in 2004, however we still need to educate people as well as our police on this law and the importance of enforcing it.

– Call or write your local law enforcement department and let them know that investigating animal cruelty should be a priority for the prevention of many other crimes. Animal cruelty is a crime, and the police must investigate these crimes. Furthermore, by accepting animal abuse on St. John we are condoning other forms of violence like domestic abuse as well as violent behavior in our community.

– Set a good example for others. If you have pets, be sure to always show them the love and good care that they deserve. It’s more than just food, water, and adequate shelter. If you think your animal is sick, bring him to the veterinarian. Be responsible and have your animals spayed or neutered.

– Talk to your kids about how to treat animals with kindness and respect. One of the most powerful tools for preventing cruelty to animals is education. It is important to plant the seeds of kindness in children early, and to nurture their development as the child grows. Children not only need to learn what they shouldn’t do, but also what they can and should do. When children see that their pets are happy and loving, it will make the children feel good, too. This in turn will help the children care for their pets’ feelings.

– Support The ACC with donations of money, food, supplies or volunteering time walking homeless dogs.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi