In the Absence of Scars
***UPDATE 4/18/2012: Reward for information leading to conviction in Justice’s case is now $25,000.00. Justice died 4/14/2012 from injuries suffered as a result of the abuse.***
During an adoption event last weekend, one of the volunteers described Justice, the newest puppy our rescue group is fighting to save from an animal cruelty case.
Attempted strangulation. Doused in lighter fluid. Lit on fire. Found hiding behind an air-conditioning unit after a group of young men tried to kill him for fun. Luckily, a good Samaritan called 911 and extinguished the flames with a t-shirt.
Poor Justice. It’s hard to feel anything that isn’t completely primal when you see images of a blistered, badly abused pup struggling to stay alive.
Obviously, this is what severe abuse looks like. No question there. Lots of comments from outraged individuals expressed the need to understand how anyone could do this. How could a group gather to collectively torture a young puppy? What causes someone to be so heartless, to be uncaring, to think this kind of thing is acceptable or funny or entertaining? I admit, I don’t get it either.
Even so, I believe bullies aren’t innately insensitive. They learn from society, from their families, from the people who are their role models. These learned ideals — often rooted from systemic abuse — manifest themselves in various harmful behaviors. This doesn’t excuse the crime in any way, only goes to show that we need to take a closer look at prevention.
Abuse begins somewhere.
On Sunday, a local church minister encouraged his congregation to attend Easter services, during which he promised to unveil a huge surprise. When the big moment arrived, the pastor revealed a small cage on wheels with bent bars. Inside this janky-looking contraption sat a living, breathing, seventeen-year-old lion, who’d been forced to spend his life performing for the sole purpose of human entertainment. Without debate, this creature served as nothing more than slave to mankind — an unnecessary prop.
The crowd watched as the handler riled the lion into moving, defending himself for the audience’s bewilderment as the church leader — proud of himself — attempted to connect the spectacle to a message within his religious service.
While holding a crying, newborn baby lamb, the minister paced the stage near the lion, as he delivered the rest of his performance.
Public outrage followed. Some church members who witnessed Easter services defended their minister’s actions by claiming that no animals were harmed. The comments on various articles insisted this was a “lion who had been in movies.”
But there it is — the beginning of a cycle. The public accepts this dog-and-pony show as non-abusive because the scars aren’t evident. There are no blisters, no burns, no blood. They believe everything must be fine because that is how it appears on the outside. In itself, I understand how someone, without knowing differently, might fail to see the picture in its entirety. In this case, groupthink perpetuates the cycle and, as in the case of Justice the puppy, the crowd enjoys watching for entertainment purposes, unable to grasp the undertones of extreme psychological abuse. I’m sure if some of them realized what was truly going on behind the curtain, they would be horrified.
Sadly, some of the people in commentary expressed irritation that the lion and the lamb made news. They claimed these were only animals, that the message was delivered. So what. Pfft. Who cares? “Don’t these people have something bigger to complain about?”
To those folk, I’d ask if they value their lives, the lives of their families. I’m sure they must. Animal abuse, which begins at the point we accept discouragement of proper care, is directly connected to many well documented, violent crimes against humanity — rape, torture, murder, etc. By embracing various levels of abuse as “OK” and “not OK,” we’re segueing further into a world where people who commit crimes against creatures don’t signal portents that can be corrected and addressed before affecting our children, for instance.
This afternoon, though, with his undeniable scars visible for all to witness, Justice waits another day to see if he will live tomorrow. Then tomorrow, he’ll wait again. With thousands of dollars in reward money offered for the capture of his attackers, I hope someone will be brave enough to step forward. Until then, all we can do is hope, demonstrate love, and donate for his extensive care.
Let’s begin something new now: Teach our children and educate others about understanding the abuse cycle, where it begins, and how to end it together. Kindly and with compassion. Ask yourself: What harm is there in that?
For information on how you can help donate to save Justice’s life, and the lives of other dogs being treated and rescued from cruelty and neglect, please visit: http://www.dfwrescueme.org/Donate/.