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Animal cruelty in SVG needs to end

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Fri, Nov 21, 2014

Currently, there is a petition on change.org that was started by UK resident Denise Rimmer, who is of Vincentian heritage, appealing for animals to be treated better in St Vincent and the Grenadines. In it, she speaks of instances where she has witnessed animal cruelty – one of which being a puppy that was intentionally struck by a van driver.{{more}}

Many people’s reaction to this petition would most likely be “Why is she putting this out there? That’s not the image we want to portray to potential tourists/visitors!” But think about it; nothing she is saying is untrue.

How many times over the decades have neighbourhood dogs been poisoned ‘en masse’ when thieves decide to burgle several residences? How many times have you seen stray dogs and cats (or even pet dogs that happen to escape from their yards) run over and left to die at the side of the road? How many times have you seen animals being kept on too-short chains or in too-small cages without sufficient nourishment, water or exercise? Just recently, a Union Island resident posted gruesome photographs of her Rottweiller which had been slashed across the back with a cutlass.

Cruelty to animals seems to have become so ingrained in our psyche that many times, persons do not even realize that it is such. We would do well to remember that animal cruelty is not just about maliciously or intentionally harming animals, but also the failure to ensure their well-being.

In these difficult economic times, pets are seen as a luxury, and many may say that there is a need to control the population of these domesticated animals. This is true, however, it does not excuse the vile conditions that many of them are subjected to. There are humane ways of controlling the pet population, which include spaying/neutering and euthanasia.

The general train of thought on this matter is that there is nothing we can do about the matter; that’s just the way things are. Not so.

According to the Protection of Animals Act, “A police officer may arrest, without warrant, any person whom he has reason to believe is guilty of an offense under this Act, which is punishable with imprisonment, other than imprisonment for non-payment of a fine…”

So, why then do so many members of the Vincentian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (VSPCA) report that they have been turned away or laughed at when they relay incidences of animal cruelty to the police? Surely this is the first step to changing attitudes towards the nation’s animals – upholding the laws that protect them!

The second step lies in targeting the youth. These are the future leaders, policy-makers, upholders of the law, so if we want to see long-term, sustainable change, then a new train of thought must be instilled while the mind is still able to be molded. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

In targeting the youth, this would require a partnership with the Ministry of Education to introduce an animal welfare programme as part of the school curriculum. Additionally, the VSPCA could offer summer programmes that incorporate fun with learning about taking care of animals.

With our economy being heavily dependent on tourism as a means of income, can we really afford for Denise Rimmer’s petition to spread so far and wide, without doing anything to counter the issue? It already has 8,000+ signatures from persons across Europe, North America, the Caribbean and further afield.

And if nothing else, does this issue not appeal to our Christian sensibilities? We consider SVG to be a God-fearing nation, a nation of compassionate people, so why would we treat defenseless animals with such disregard?

Proverbs chapter 12 (v. 10) says: “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal…” while Proverbs chapter 27 (v. 23) says: “Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds…” So, let us do just that – let us pay attention to this issue and show regard for every life, no matter how small.

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