I’m still upset about the events out of Zanesville, Ohio, this week, but my fury has softened to sadness. In every way, a tragedy.
Some have said that County Sheriff Matt Lutz and his officers took the easy way out in shooting to kill, as opposed to tranquilizing, the animals. Perhaps. I know from my own experience at the shelter that effectively and humanely tranquilizing an animal requires a certain amount of precision. I understand how in the dark of the night, with time ticking, this could be a difficult undertaking.
So was there truly no other way?
A hero of mine, Best Friends Animal Society founder Michael Mountain, posted an alternative course of action for how the Zanesville animals could have been saved while ensuring the safety of area humans. Could it have worked? In theory, maybe. In practice, I doubt it — but I applaud his thinking.
I do know that Jack Hanna’s defense of the slaughter means very little to me. The man may truly love all living creatures, but his way of expressing it — unfailing support for captive animals for entertainment in places like SeaWorld — is the farthest thing from advocacy. You can call them exotic, but a euphemistic label won’t change the fact that they are wild. To keep them in cages, tanks, or isolation is not just unnatural, it’s cruel.
I’m not the first to point out: We’re way way too late by the time we have to start thinking about how to contain Bengal tigers on the loose in the middle of Ohio. Whether it’s chimpanzees as pets, grizzly bears confined to a cage, or a dog tied to a three-foot chain, our laws must reflect our ethical obligations. Just because we can imprison animals doesn’t mean it’s ok to do it, anymore than it’s ok for a large man to hit a small woman or an adult to abuse a child.
Our only choice now is to use the Zanesville tragedy to expose our laws and change our attitudes. The responsibility lies with us, voters — not just in Ohio, but everywhere animal welfare laws are woefully under-established and under-enforced. (Unfortunately, that’s most communities in the U.S.)
And it’s not like they don’t know how to legislate animal ownership in Ohio. Lawmakers there took the time to declare all bully breeds — that is, any dog resembling a Pit Bull — as automatically vicious. In fact, Ohio law not only allows for, but demands, such dogs be kept confined by tether or other means of restraint. It would be ironic if it wasn’t so damn sad.
Tomorrow is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. As appropriate a day as any, I believe, to take a step toward changing what doesn’t work and implementing universal compassion for all.