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Our treatment of animals is a reflection of us

With revolution in the air in the Middle East and North Africa, and a growing threat of religious extremism, why should we be concerned when a case of animal abuse hits the news?


We should be concerned about world affairs, of course.

But as a whole, we should also think about how we treat the furry friends we call our pets, because it shows a lot about us.

All too often, our companion animals are threatened, neglected, abused or simply tossed out because we see them as breathing objects we can toss when we're bored with them, just like last year's iPod.

Our materialistic outlook is apparently in how we treat our fellow creatures.

Since January, the Exploits Valley SPCA had 78 animals come through its doors.

And it's only the beginning of March.

Dogs and cats, these animals were either found as strays, dropped off by people claiming "my kid/partner has an allergy" or promising to "get Kitty after I come back from holidays," or in garbage dumps.

Some of the animals ended up at the shelter because SPCA volunteers and staff trained as special constables found them living in deplorable conditions: neglected and abused.

Some pet owners don't even bother to get the creatures fixed because they claim it's too expensive; then Rover or Fluffy procreate and litters of puppies or kittens are the result. These sweet animals don't often find homes. Instead, they end up at the shelter to be put down if no one adopts them, damned in a garbage dump to an existence that is "nasty, brutish and short," or shot or drowned.

A dog recently made the news because its owner in Paradise locked it in a shed with little food and water while she was away. When the dog was freed by a landlord showing the shed to a prospective tenant, the canine shot out the door, hungry, cold and covered in feces.

It would take a very long computer printout - almost to the moon - to list animal abuses documented by groups like the SPCA over the past 10 years or so.

If we were to go on trial, a lawyer would argue that humans, and rightly so, that we have broken the ancient contract with our companion animals.

Those companion animals originally became that, millennia ago, because humans found how much they could provide in terms of skill, loyalty and affection. The first dogs were descended from wolf puppies adopted and later trained by ancient humans.

Because wolves had a social order, they were a natural fit with humans who discovered the animals' hunting skills and loyalty could be used to the benefit of both. Kings and queens today, as in past times, still take pride in their pet dogs.

Or today's domestic cat, descended from the ancient wild cats of the desert and the European and Russian forests. Some of our ancestors encouraged felines who hung around food stores; the cats provided their rodent-hunting skills in exchange for extra food and affection. Ancient Egyptians even worshipped them as goddesses.

Animal abuse wasn't unknown in the past. In medieval times, cats particularly were seen in some countries as "familiars" of witches. If you were an old lady herbalist in 13th-century England or 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts, and you lived alone with only a black cat as a companion, cute little Midnight could be burned at the stake.

But this isn't medieval Europe.

So why are there so many cases of animal abuse and neglect? The causes are many, and if you want examples, just call up the SPCA or Google "animal abuse" and you'll find what humans are capable of doing to our furry friends.

Which brings us back to the Middle East, North Africa and the other conflicts in the world, as well as the cases of domestic abuse on a local level.

How we mistreat our companion animals show, disturbing, a lack of respect for life as a whole.

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