2 hours ago
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Old Yeller & Animal cruelty
Old Yeller is the first movie that I remember crying at as a child, and it made a big impression on me. It's a love story between a boy and his dog, and the dog saves the boys life a couple of times over the course of the movie.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. For a disney film, the ending of the movie is pretty dark. It points out to me how much the ethos about animal care has changed since then. The basic concept of shooting your own dog has really stuck with me and resonated over the years. Sometimes you have to do the right thing even when it hurts. Now it's not ok to put your own dog down. We've got to delegate that task, too. It's quite a bit like slaughtering animals -- it's ok if the priesthood does it, but common folks don't have the stuff.
I mention this because I read a story today about a father and son who were on trial for animal cruelty. The fathers trial ended in a mistrial, the Son was acquitted. The crime they were accused of? Shooting their own dog.
The basic facts recounted in the story is that the dog, a male rottweiler, had bitten the sons wife several times in the last two months and that the father and son had decided to put the dog down.
Rottweilers are big, powerful dogs, and my own mother was involved in rottweiler rescue until one bit her finger off, killed her cat and then attacked another dog in the household. Another rottweiler killed a 4 year old daughter of a star of "ax men", a reality tv show, on March 1st after biting his wife a few times. So the risk that the two men had identified was, in my opinion, real. When you have a big, powerful dog that you cannot control, it's the responsible thing to take concrete action to control the risk. As my mother found out, just foisting your problem off on someone else isn't always a solution -- sometimes it just delays the problem.
They drove the dog out to a remote area, tied it to a tree, and shot it three times. It went over an embankment after it was shot, and they left it there. I can imagine that it was pretty emotional to have just shot your own dog, but I understand exactly what they were trying to do. They weren't dodging the problem; they stood up and made a decision, hard as it was and were carrying it through. I do fault them for not making sure that the dog was dead, and for leaving the body there. They weren't charged with littering or improper disposal of an animal, both of which are against the law.
Apparently it wasn't dead; and was found at some point, and taken to the animal shelter, where it was killed after a couple of days.
They were charged with animal cruelty and prosecuted. Don't know how much was spent on the case, but taking a case to trial is never cheap. $10,000? I don't know.
In Washington state, gunshot is considered a humane slaughter kill method; it's one of four ways you can legally kill an animal. It's also a humane slaughter method in federal law.
What were they really guilty of? Bad aim. I'm guessing that there were tears being shed at the time, and that they did look at the dog and it looked dead. I don't think their intention was to leave it alive -- and apparently the jury agrees with that, too.
And I'm really glad that the jury in the sons' case agree with me. The fathers case was deadlocked and the prosecutor decided not to retry him. At least some of the jury agreed with me there, too.
News story about the father/son trial here.
News story about the ax-men stars child who was killed by a rottweiler here.