Why are we torturing our animals?
Laurens County has taken a great step forward in dealing with stray dogs with the opening this month of new kennels at the Animal Control facility near the airport. Former Public Works Director Rob Russian and his staff saw that the animal facility was overrun, and the county government did something about it. Now they have room to take in and keep more dogs - we hope - awaiting adoption.
Dedicated volunteers saw the gap in service that animal control could not provide, and opened the Laurens County Animal Shelter in Clinton. Here, cats and dogs can await adoption. Local vets and vet techs assist both organizations in dealing with the animals’ health needs. Both organizations can use more help - volunteers, food and bedding. We are just not responding.
And by we, The Chronicle means us, too. We have not done a good enough job bringing to light the needs of animals in our community. Otherwise, why would Laurens County have a nationwide, starting to become worldwide, reputation as the dog torture capital of the United States.
What is wrong with these people?
“Mental illness” is too polite a word for them - some of whom still stand to be convicted in a court of law. So, under our system of justice, they are “innocent until proven guilty.” However, here’s one thing we also know, “photos don’t lie.”
You see a dog’s ribs visible through its skin, that dog’s been starved. You see acid burns on a dog’s back fur, that dog’s been tortured. Yes, we have more room to keep the dogs nobody wants at Laurens County Animal Control but, frankly, we have don’t have a dog problem - we have a people problem.
We need to put animal abusers in real jail when they are convicted. Call it “animal jail,” we don’t care - no probation, no working on the litter gang - real jail. Not weekends - real, honest, hard time. And you know what, word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. Once a couple people start telling each other, “Joe got jail for putting a chain around his dog’s neck” that behavior will come to an end. Because there’s one thing an animal abuser responds to - justice.
They do it because they can get away with it. Justice turns a blind eye.
Once they stop getting away with it, they will stop doing it. There is one way to be sure they stop getting away with it. Hire more animal control officers, give them arrest powers (and training) and tell them, “Go get it.” We are stopping short of offering a bounty, because that leads to abuse, but an Employee of the Month for the person who prosecutes the most animal abusers would not be so bad.
As far as we know, we do not have dog-fighting in Laurens County. We are not naive enough to think it is not happening in South Carolina. People are raising dogs to kill them, about that there can be no doubt. With all our state’s money problems (even with a multi-million-dollar budget surplus), we cannot expect dog-fighting and dog torture to be eradicated by state officials. Legislators won’t pass a law. Local governments won’t ban tethering, the first step in dog torture. This is not a government problem, it’s our problem.
All we need from the government is more hands, more officers making more cases. More people making it absolutely plain that taping firecrackers to a dog’s tail is not funny - YouTube not withstanding. “My buddy” didn’t strap the dog to the back of your pick-up tailgate - you did, man up. It seemed like a good, fun idea when you did it - not so fun when you drove to the gas station and people called the law. We wish we could sentence animal abusers to a year of shoveling animal poop but, of course, our legal system will not allow it. Too “torturous” for our delicate human psyche.
Dogs in Laurens County know what real torture is. They are teaching us a brutal lesson, but are we able to listen?