San Francisco Chronicle misses the point

Phil Bronstein, San Francisco Chronicle

Dear Mr. Bronstein,

I read your column “Man bites dog” (March 8, 2010) and found your dismissal of an animal abusers registry to be naïve, off point, and personally offensive. To compare unknowingly taking a bite of cat meat to purposely and repeatedly torturing an animal is ridiculous.

You say:

“I’ve had pets my whole life, and I have three kids, but I just can’t get my brain around a moral equivalence between monsters who sexually assault children and creeps who singe collies.”

No one is insisting you deem the two morally equivalent. The fact is, both acts are horrifying. Once that echelon of cruelty is reached, is it really worthwhile to debate which deed is worse? Should we ignore robbery and focus solely on stalking? We have the means to reduce both–why not use them?

Or here’s an idea, Mr. Bronstein: Spare your brain the work of trying to negotiate a “moral equivalence.” Instead, concentrate on the matter at hand: animal cruelty. And if burning a dog alive still doesn’t register on your horror barometer, I feel very sorry for your pets. And your children.

You go on to say:

“In another Southeast Asian country, I once bought meat on a stick from a vendor. It turned out to be dog. I should probably just arrest myself now. Next, I might very well go on a public evildoer list like a convicted sex offender.”

We’re not advocating making pariahs out of these convicted criminals. No one is suggesting we hang their photos on street lamps or post their entire criminal record to the Internet. There’s no move to paint “animal abuser” across the front door of their house.

What we’re talking about here is preventing known sadists from carrying out additional torture and killing by providing relevant information to animal shelters and rescue groups.

To clarify: Animal abusers aren’t people who inadvertently find themselves purchasing mystery meat when traveling abroad. Animal abusers enjoy starving a dog to the point he can no longer lift his head. Animal abusers take pleasure in lighting their pets on fire. Animal abusers regularly fight–and then dump–animals in the trash, leaving them broken boned and bleeding.

Mr. Bronstein, do you see the difference?

A longtime volunteer with San Francisco Animal Care and Control (as well as the Santa Fe Humane Society), I’ve spent countless hours with animals in protective municipal custody: dogs and puppies who are there as victims of abuse. I’ve fed them, tended to their wounds, and helped them learn to trust humans again. An abuse registry provides us in the animal protection field a way to ensure that those we’ve rescued, cared for, and nursed back to health don’t wind up back in a torture chamber.

As a vegan, I agree with your last statement: We should look at the broad range of how we treat animals. I fully support legislation that demands the humane treatment of livestock and prohibits “shooting mascara into the eyes of screaming rabbits.”

There aren’t yet enough of those laws. So in the meantime, it’s imperative to support an animal abuse registry. Because requiring a reduction in suffering for some animals is preferable to doing nothing at all.

– Leslie Smith