Education or Interference?

While visiting another state and staying in a private home, I came across a nearby house with two dogs. One was some sort of Pom cross, one a (mostly) pointer.  Both lived outdoors full time–not once in the 11 days we were there did they move inside despite pouring rain and searing sun.  The Pom cross lived in a slapped-together, rusty cage, roughly 3′ x 3′ x 3′, with part of the top covered.  The pointer lived at the end of a chain, where he could move into sun or shade.  There was a disgustingly filthy crate nearby he could retreat to out of the rain, and a metal bowl which (I hope) had water in it.  Both dogs barked furiously whenever pedestrians, bicyclists, or cats wandered by.

This didn’t look like much of a life, and I was upset at the conditions the dogs lived in. After a few days, I called the humane society and asked what options I had.  Turns out that the minimum requirement of providing food, water, and shelter was probably met by these owners, and the shelter folks would not investigate or get involved.

What then? What are our responsibilities toward animals not our own?  These dogs lived a horribly limited life, but they were fed and sheltered, after a fashion. Many times I wanted to knock on the door and talk to them about their dogs, despite the sign posted on the lawn: “trespassers will be shot.” But it seemed from the rough appearance of the house, with peeling paint and sagging porch, and with 3 different junked cars in various states of disintegration moldering around the yard, that these folks were barely able to keep their human lives together. I just couldn’t imagine that anything I would say would make an impression on them, much less a difference in the dogs’ lives. (And for sure I didn’t want to get shot.) So, after hanging up on the call to the humane society, I did nothing.  And I can’t forget those dogs.

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