Volume 13, Issue 29 ~ July 21-27, 2005

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A Mystifying Epidemic of Animal Cruelty

Sometimes, we barely know what to say about the madness in our midst.

That’s the case at the moment with an inexplicable rash of animal-cruelty reports in our region.

Cats, dogs, horses, sheep — all have been the victims of abuse that is so extreme that it has been making the newspapers since last week.

A woman in northern Virginia had 488 cats in her home; 222 of them dead.

At a Maryland farm in Frederick County, two sheep were shot last week by drive-by maniacs.

In a bizarre tale closer to home, Prince George’s County’s top health official was forced to resign last week after animal control officers found miniature horses and shar pei dogs suffering on his Harwood farm in Southern Anne Arundel.

Then we learn of the kitten apparently tossed from a vehicle crossing the Thomas Johnson Bridge, which connects Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. That feline became the focus of an elaborate rescue that could have meant injuries to firefighters. It saved them the risk by leaping 45 feet from a bridge support into the Patuxent River. The kitten survived its dive and swim and was netted by rescuers in a boat.

Animal welfare officers report that other kittens also have been thrown off that high bridge.

The brutality of these clustered abuses is both sickening and perplexing. Are people cracking up under life’s pressures and striking out against creatures that make life richer?

We can’t figure out how else to explain such cruelty. These incidents are as inexplicable to us as terrorism and sadistic treatment of prisoners.

We doubt if anyone capable of mistreating animals reads Bay Weekly. But in these transgressions, both casual and calculated, are reminders for all of us about the vulnerability of animals.

In this time of year, especially, animals depend on our good sense.

The combination of heat and humidity can create death traps for our pets. (How’d you like to mow the lawn in a fur coat?)

This time of year, dogs and cats want shade and water. Your dog doesn’t need to jog or ride along on errands if it must wait for you in steaming vehicles.

Dogs can even get sunburned, especially short-haired varieties with pink skin visible.

Watch for rapid panting and drooling, hot skin, twitching muscles and a dazed look. (In your dog, not your husband.) The first-stage remedy is wrapping your pet in a towel soaked with water, using ice packs or placing it in a cold tub. If you suspect heatstroke, call a vet.

Who can say why some people abandon all pretense of civility in their treatment of animals?

But it’s up to us, we believe, to compensate for the sins of others by looking out for our fellow members of the animal kingdom.
P.S. The white-footed, gray kitten that dove into the Patuxent has a new home. “After it happened, we got about 50 calls,” reports Kim Stephens, assistant supervisor at the Tri-County Animal Shelter, where the rescued kitten was taken by St. Mary’s County Animal Welfare officers. Only a few callers showed up to adopt the kitten Stephens described as “friendly,” but one is enough at the first-come, first-serve shelter.

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