Paws for a Moment by Bonny Corbeil

Did you know that April is “Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month”?

This is a very important area of awareness and education for us in the Virgin Islands.

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors—from neglect to malicious killing of animals. Some cruelty is unintentional and results from a lack of awareness and understanding that animals, as live beings, depend on us humans to ensure that they have the basics of water, food, shelter and socialization. This is where it is very important to teach and educate people on how to be responsible animal owners. Some people do not realize that they are being cruel.

Putting a dog on a very short chain, having a shelter that is not dry from the rain, no interactions with your dog—remember, animals are social creatures and want to be a part of your life!

Teaching animal responsibility in general contributes to us all learning how to be better people, with and to each other. That is the main goal of teaching kindness classes to kids. When we learn to be kind to animals, we experience the joy of kindness. This in turn, opens our heart and assists us in character growth as good citizens with each other.

Intentional cruelty or abuse is knowingly depriving animals of these basic needs or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing animals. All animal cruelty is a major concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature! Any person who purposefully does this is demonstrating emotional and psychological problems.

Why would anyone behave in this manner? There are many reasons. Quite often these individuals have learned violent behavior. Some who are cruel to animals copy what they have seen, experienced or seen others do. They may have been abused themselves.

Animal cruelty is usually committed by those who really feel a need to control and inflict power on something that is unable to defend itself. It is a kind of “bullying.” In fact, it often looks like some individuals enjoy hurting animals. They sadly, enjoy the pain and the violence. Many studies done in the last 30 years show a definite correlation between animal abuse and more serious escalating abuse directed towards children, women and elders.

Many serial killers had a history of killing and torturing animals as children. Animal cruelty is often used as a diagnostic tool to determine conduct disorder. Purposefully hurting animals is a definite “red flag” that must be addressed.

Here in our islands, there have been far too many incidents of animal abuse. Dogs have been found with deep wounds in their necks because of collars that were too small; others have been chained and left in the hot sun to die without food or water; newborn puppies and kittens have been thrown in dumpsters along with the garbage. Life is much too sacred for us as people to support this kind of behavior.

When we demonstrate responsible animal behavior with our children, we offer a great gift to them and to our community. We support “non-violence.” Some of us really need to question old habits that are incredibly cruel and mean, and make a conscious decision to be more considerate towards all animals.

What can we do to stop animal cruelty? If we see someone deliberating hurting an animal, get help. Tell a responsible adult or call our St. John Animal Care Center. We are there to help. Sometimes the police must be called and a report made. Did you know that Bill 25, which was recently passed, means it is against the law to abuse animals in the VI?

Paws for a moment, and think. Whether it is a case of neglect or deliberate abuse, we need to care about the way we treat animals. It is the right thing to do. Remember that people who harm animals may also harm people. When we stop cruelty to animals, we help our entire community.

Be sure to be at our Annual ACC Wagapalooza Dog Show on Saturday, May 13. It promises to be a family fun event. This is our major fund raiser for the ACC and we need your support!

Are you a guest on vacation and missing your best friend? How about a “doggie visit and walk” with one of our ACC residents? That’s a “win-win” for all involved.

Can’t Own a Dog?
How about becoming an ACC Dog Walker? Our dogs need some special TLC and a daily walk. Care about our island animals and the good work we do? We are always grateful for donations to “Help Us Care.”