Things are changing. Sometimes change can happen so slowly you don’t recognize it until something really dramatic happens – like some woman from Cary, NC posting on her Facebook page a photograph of her Chocolate Labrador, with a duct-taped muzzle and the caption: “This is what happens when you don’t shut up!!!”
And then the image going viral around the world – with people outraged along the way – through different law enforcement agencies until it landed in our own back yard, in Cary, NC.
My first thought was about Bandit (pictured), a puppy in our own back yard that we rescued a few years back who also “wouldn’t shut up” so his owners bound his mouth shut to keep him quiet. (He also couldn’t drink or eat.) The rubber band sliced completely through his muzzle. At the SPCA we stitched him up, gave him medical care and placed him in a loving home.
And then we pressed cruelty charges against the owners – we did this on our own as a private group — with no support from anyone but our donors and volunteers. Today, something’s different. A LOT is different.
An image that depicts a potential act of cruelty galvanized people across the world. Not just “animal lovers” and not just “activists” not just “bleeding hearts” or the “humorless,” as Facebook trolls would lead one to believe.
I believe today is different for two big reasons:
- The link between violence to animals and violence to people is well established. Today, for professionals involved with victims of family violence, animal abuse can be an indicator of further abuse in the home. These reports are increasing community awareness for the ways that animal abuse, domestic violence, child mistreatment, and elder abuse are often interrelated. You don’t need to consider yourself an “animal rights activist” to be concerned – even shocked or outraged – at the viral photo circulating. A visceral reaction to an image that appears to be causing pain in an animal is a sign of a community who cares. Outrage at an image that appears to promote cruelty, is an excellent indicator that our community and culture would also be enraged at images that depict abuse of those who cannot speak for themselves including our children and possibly our elders.
- We live in a time of anti-bullying campaigns and in a time of, “if you see something, say something.” I’m proud of the people who saw this image as a potential threat to all in our community who cannot speak for themselves. I’m proud of the law enforcement agencies who did not see this a “LOL Facebook” moment, but treated it not only as the sentinel indicator of additional abuse that it might have been but as a serious act unto itself.
I’m really proud of Cary Law Enforcement who actively sought out answers, investigated and did what they could within the laws of North Carolina.
I think back to Bandit, that sweet Shepherd mix puppy who wouldn’t shut up. I’m proud he’s not so alone anymore. I’m proud we have a community who is looking out for each other, and who would speak up for him. Watch Kim Janzen, Executive Director of the SPCA of Wake County speak out about the recent case involving the Chocolate Labrador Retriever on WRAL-TV >
Director of Development
(The above article contains no opinion or speculation on Ms. Lemansky — just an observation of how growing awareness of social problems can change people’s reactions.)