Animal Abuse: Animals Are Not Targets
g up on a farm, I witnessed a great deal of animal abuse. Not from my family, of course, but by passersby. The pens of the animals nestled up against the Salt Lake canal bank which had a small dirt road that ran the whole length of the canal. You could look down into our pens of cattle, horses, sheep and pigs, taking in the normal scents of a working farm – alfalfa, straw and, of course, manure. Here are a few of the things that took place over the years:
* ROCKING THROWING IS A GREAT SPORT. Rock throwing was a popular sport of the youngest vsitors. The point of the game was to see who could hit one of the animals first. The cows made the best targets because of their size and lumbering movements.
* ANIMALS MAKE GREAT TARGETS. Christmas was another joyous time when teens received their first BB guns. An aim and a hit was the same as shooting a paper target to most boys. Their squeals of joy were heard across the farm. My dad spent many hours trying to heal the bleeding holes in the animals – many BBs never recovered, infections ensuing. How I wish they could have watched the senseless pain they caused the animals and my family.
* GARBAGE IS A YUMMY SNACK. Children weren’t the only ones who wreaked havoc on the farm. Even the simplest, careless act would lead to harming an animal. In the later years, our farm was surrounded on three sides by sub-divisions. Although garbage pick-up was available, neighbors bordering us saw our farm as a dumping ground and a place to tromp our hay down for their baseball games. I never understood as our family drove along the fence lines throwing our neighbor’s garbage into the back of our pickup truck why they weren’t humiliated by their deeds. It has never stopped to amaze me looking back at this time, how they thought they benefited by their acts. They could still see the garage over the chain-link fence. Why not gaze upon the beauty of a green field instead?
As the cows and horses grazed the pastures during different seasons of the year, an interesting morsel of nails, plastic bottle caps, or the remnants of a ham sandwich in a plastic baggie would catch an animal’s eye or be eaten with a mouthful of tasty alfalfa. I remember helping my father inject magnets down the cow’s throats with a bolus to collect as much iron and steel as possible. This was to prevent punctures in their stomachs. The iron and steel caused Hardware Disease or peritonitis. The magnets would hold the metal in place and cellulous would wrap around it much like a pearl in an oyster.
* INDIRECT MEANS OF ABUSE. This garbage practice over the fence did nothing to help the flow of farming. Despite regular collections by my family, garbage magically appeared continuously, including rocks which couldn’t always be seen in a stand of alfalfa. These “gifts” from our neighbors damaged and broke our farming equipment of bailers, rakes and plows – costing valuable time and loss of crops for the animals.
* PETS ARE LIKE FAMILY. Being a dog lover, the episodes we suffered with the dogs caused my heart to ache the most. One of my favorite dogs in my youth was Duke, a blue heeler. Despite the name, Duke was a female. She was a protective dog even to us kids and she worked the sheep and cattle like a pro.
One summer day, Duke crawled to the back porch door, whimpering. We found her on the steps, a bullet in the top of her head. My father was an excellent veterinarian without ever having had any formal training. Somehow, he miraculously managed to save Duke’s life. She was never the same after that. We soon realized there had been some brain damage to her.
One day my dad and I, along with Duke, hauled a load of our neighbor’s garbage to the dump. Duke rode in the truck by my feet. When my dad left to rake out the back of the truck, I reached down to pet her head. She lunged at me, knocked the glasses from my face, and bit my cheek and eyelid. The blood poured profusely from the bite. I was shocked by the act of my once protective, loyal friend. But as young as I was, I still understood. The love for this dog was strong in me and I didn’t want her to get into trouble with my dad. I searched the glove compartment for tissues or towels to cover my injured face but to no avail. I wiped the blood on my jeans and on the Naugahyde roof of our old 1964 Ford pick-up truck.
I quickly turned my head so my father wouldn’t see me as he stepped into the truck. He noticed the blood on my jeans and the roof of the truck instantly. He turned my face toward him and stared at me in disbelief. My words were soft, “Please don’t be mad at Duke.” We returned home and I was never to see Duke again. I asked my dad where she had gone, and he told me she had wandered off. In my heart, and by the pain in his eyes, I knew what had truly happened.
* DOGS AND CARS. Over the years we had many dogs on the farm. Although many of our animals were injured by careless acts, some were deliberately ran over by people speeding along the road.
All of these acts proved painful and senseless over the years. It is good to see that some of our staes have passed a law which makes animal abuse a federal crime. Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have still not passed this law. If you live in these states, please contact your senators and representatives today.
So far in my books, I have included dogs and also deal with the subject of animal abuse. It is an issue close to my heart. I hope through this article and my books people will come to understand that animals are not targets.