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.


Joanne Rigutto said...

We put our dog down several years ago. He was a valued member of the family and the farm for 13 1/2 years. It's not an easy thing to do. It can be pretty traumatic if it's your own dog you're putting down. Heck, being there when a vet puts your dog down can be pretty traumatic.

I think the only justification I can see in the animal cruelty charge is the fact that they didn't actually kill the dog, but wounded it and left it for dead.

sheila said...

Their error was to forget the 2nd S in Shoot, Shovel and Shut up. It is animal cruelty to leave an animal for dead like that. If they had felt obligated to bury it then they could have ensured the dog was dead. As far as I'm concerned putting the dog down was justified though. Aggression towards humans is not to be tolerated and not everyone can afford to pay $100 or more to have a vet euthanize a pet.

Mike said...

I agree, putting your dog down is a normal thing on many farms and is perfectly legal as far as I know. They botched the job, thats all. I read the comments on the article link you included and all the city folk are in a tissy because they could never imagine doing so. I think it is more respectful to the animal for the ones who owned it to do the deed.

Anonymous said...

This a case where it would have been better to ask a friend to it.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, what a mess. I have a lot of concerns about the way many vets handle the euthanasia step. Many vets hassle people about the decision (especially in cases like this, where it is a decision based on temperament issues).

And many vets charge exhorbitant fees for the service, and pressure clients into buying extra things: cremation, fancy urns, burials, mementos etc. I feel that many vets take advantage of the emotional time to over-charge, because they know they can get by with it.

Not all vets are guilty of this, of course, but I think it's more common than we'd hope. I wish the AVMA would work on this, to ensure a more consistent message and ethical behavior and pricing happens at euthanasia time.

I believe that this phenomenon drives some people to attempt at-home euthanasia when maybe they aren't experienced enough, or emotionally prepared enough, to do a proper job.

I'm not knowledgable about this particular case, but it makes me wonder if the people didn't have a bad experience that deterred them from going to a vet. If they had felt welcome and supported by their vet, and felt that the charge for euthanasia was reasonable, maybe the tragedy could have been prevented. Maybe not, maybe the people just over-estimated their own capabilities.

But I think it is definitely a topic that the veterinary community must embrace. I've just heard too many stories (and experienced it myself) where people had come to the difficult conclusion that euthanasia was the right decision, and a vet gave them a hard time and/or charged an unreasonable fee.


Anonymous said...

I'd agree with Michelle. And with the folks who have pointed out that these two are idiots. But I don't want the government deciding who does or doesn't have the "skill" to put an animal down. I know our neighbor shot his dog when it bit another lady down the road. I heard the gun. One shot. Tears shed. Gotta love the media for getting just enough information right to piss of 80% of the population. Good job guys! Way to "report the truth".

Chad said...

The guys were definately guilty of being idiots...

In college, I worked at a vet hospital. I held dogs as they were given their fatal injection. It works well most of the time. The hard part is when you have an old scared dog that urinates all over just being in the office, let alone being touched by the vet. Some dogs just HATE the vet and the vet office. I think they can smell the death or something... Not a very clean, humane, honorable, dignified, putting the beloved family member\pet first way to die.

So when it came time to put our beloved German Shepherd down after so many years of being such a special part of the family... Well, I had some thinking to do. She fit in the camp of 'hate the vet office' and 'hates the vet'. So no house call and no visit to the office for us. To know her last moments alive would be filled with anxiety, fear, trembling, peeing, looking for me, etc - well, there had to be a better way.

Her favorite thing to do was to go hiking on on walks in the woods with us. She was in her element and you could see it all over her face. It was sad in those last weeks when we had to leave her behind. She knew where we were going and was devistated to be left behind.

So one day I carried her to my car and drove her out into the woods. She could barely walk, but you could see her spirits were high. I carried her for a bit, and let her kinda walk for a few paces. Eventually we reached a nice deep hole left by a falled tree where the roots were ripped out of the ground. There was some fresh dirt and plenty of bowling ball sized rocks. I had scoped out the area ahead of time...

Instead of my hiking stick, I brought a lone a folding camp shovel (the old heavy military kind). And instead of a camera, I had a small hand gun.

She sat next that hole just looking out at the woods and being happy to be with me again out there. I stood next to and slightly behind her. An instant later, she was gone.

Bruce King said...

Chad, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

CurshDude said...

What's amazing here is that what people considered to be normal about a lot of things we're considered normal even 100 years ago. Just in the past 20 years we have seen a dramatic change in the norms of many cultures.

People have become softer in all the wrong places. Weaker would be a better word to use. Kids grew up into adults, standing for a lot. Boys became real men. They faced a lot of realities they had to learn how to cope with. Today this isn't the case so much. Instead of facing many things head on, they are being "protected" by complainers who exploit the law. Killing an animal for the right reason was never a crime for thousands of years. But modernism of the 21st century actually believes it is far wiser than time tested wisdom. And we have dumbed down fools who actually believe it. They are the complainers who think its okay to condemn others. They ar the ones who would get a front row seat at an execution.

While I don't doubt some people do a piss poor job at putting an animal down, there are also people that do a piss poor job working in a factory. But that doesn't mean they need to lose their job. Intentions are good enough. Its something they have to do, and they have to live with whatever happens. The government needs to stay far away from the family business. They do nothing but break it and feed the trolls we are seeing in mass numbers today.