Readers agree: Animal abuse is no laughing matter

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 15, 2006

Last week’s joke featuring directions from “Rover” on how to bathe a cat met with laughter from almost all our coffee companions – all, that is, except one reader in Ontario.

“I must be one of the humourless ones, because I found the one about bathing a cat in the toilet made me uneasy,” Dr. Kathleen Adamson wrote. “You or I would just chuckle and move on, but there are many people out there who would be quite capable of doing exactly that to some poor cat.”

Kathleen works in cat rescue north of Toronto. She’s aware of acts of animal cruelty that would “make your blood run cold and your heart ache,” as she puts it.

“Hope I am not being grim, but the suffering of animals now is staggering, and I guess we have to be careful that a goofy thought does not cost some poor helpless cat its life.”

Her concern is not limited to cats. She is well aware of the horrific Didsbury dog incident last month in which a Collie was beaten, bound and dragged behind a car, fracturing her neck, pelvis, back and skull.

“The suffering animals are the canaries down in the mine of human sickness,” Kathleen said. Animal abuse can be an indicator “of potential psychopathic wife-beaters, child abusers and killers.”

A little checking among some of our local pet-knowledgeable readers supported Kathleen’s concern.

Tiffany Sostar, owner/operator of DogStar Training and Behaviour Consultations Ltd., Calgary, said, “The link between animal abuse and violence towards humans is startling and pronounced. Many abused people will stay in the home because of threats to the family pet, and many abusers start with animals.”

Penalties for animal abuse have been inadequate, Tiffany says. She urges Albertans to get behind the passage of Bill C-50 to give domestic animals more protection. “As it stands now, you could torture and kill a stray animal in horrific ways and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The current law recognizes ‘lawfully owned’ animals only.” (Go to for background.)

Cochrane coffee companion Marianne Brealey has been a longtime volunteer with the Cochrane Humane Society, that wonderful local group who have committed themselves passionately to the welfare of stray and abused pets.

I asked Marianne why she is so committed to pets.

“My late father was a very emotionally abusive man,” she said. “My sister and I were always afraid of him and he ruled the house with his temper tantrums. We had dogs as we were growing up and my sister and I took those dogs to bed with us at night and just hugged them, as they made us feel secure. This passionate love of animals has been ‘bred’ into me, and my pets have never let me down.”

She spoke of the companionship of dogs especially with the elderly.

“I’ve observed this connection in the summer time when first thing in the morning, I see from the fitness centre an elderly lady with her walker, taking her little dog – a Bichon, I believe – for a walk. I am sure the presence of the dog has given her a purpose for getting up every day.”

About the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, Marianne said: “I would not trust an animal abuser to be guardian over children, the elderly or the handicapped. A pet trusts us, and when we betray their trust they have no way of defending themselves. Neither do society's vulnerable.”

I’m giving the final word to Toby, a four-year-old chocolate-brown Labrador retriever cross who lives with Angus and Beryl McNee, formerly of Ghost Lake Village, now of Westbank, B.C.

“Toby’s an outstanding young man,” says Angus. “He’s a hospital visitor, and we go two or three times a month to a local eldercare facility. Amazing how he can bring a twinkle to the eye and a smile to the face of those who are locked into the silent world of dementia.”

If Toby were able to speak, Angus says, he’d no doubt say to us, “Take care of your best buddies.”

Toby, a Labrador retriever cross of Westbank, B.C., says, “Take care of your best buddies.”  Photo Angus McNee

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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