An animal control officer in Mississippi is accused of shooting 100 cats and dogs and dumping their bodies near a creek. The officer had been employed for three years, so it's possible some of the animals were killed as long as three years ago. The officer has been fired and is facing misdemeanor charges.
I want to make my feelings clear: I believe what this man did was wrong on a moral and legal level.
But after reading a couple of articles, I'm left wondering why the outrage?
Here's what I feel the officer did wrong:
* He killed healthy and/or adoptable animals.
* He may have shot animals multiple times before their death.
People find gunshots viscerally unappealing, it's such a violent blow to the system...literally. American society has deemed it a generally unacceptable method of killing, and this is important, dogs and cats. Oddly, American society feels it acceptable to kill farmed animals and wildlife with gunshots. But our schizophrenic relationship with nonhuman animals is a post for another day (and perhaps never on this particular blog).
Wielding a gun requires experience and the ability to know where to aim for a killing shot. In my opinion, only the most docile of dogs and cats can easily be dispatched with one bullet- hitting a flailing, unrestrained dog or cat properly in the head isn't easy (assuming he aimed for the head). So I'm not going out on a limb here when I imagine that some of these animals suffered several gunshots before their ultimate demise.
But I've witnessed plenty of botched killings using "euthanasia solution". Each animal responds differently to the chemicals in euthanasia solution - some go quickly, some resist. Sometimes it is hard to find a vein. It requires a lot of physical handling, unless the animal is slap-shot with a tranquilizer or sedative prior to the introduction of the killing solution.
All that said, what I think is horrifying is this: Those animals never received a chance to be adopted. They were never taken to a shelter for possible placement. Their fates were decided by one individual who, for whatever reason, didn't want to take the time to bring the animals to the rescue league.
We kill millions of dogs and cats in this country. How they are killed is certainly important, but it is not most important. That they are killed, now that is what is important. They are killed for space. They are killed because they have curable or incurable diseases. They are sometimes killed because shelters are underfunded and lack resources for better marketing. This is what I find most tragic. Discussing how they are killed and how perhaps some forms of killing should be rethought are red herrings. They divert from the fact that we are killing at all. Yes, outlaw egregiously cruel methods of death. No, how they die should not distract from the discussion about why we are killing these animals in the first place.
This comment sums it up, expresses how horribly skewed our perceptions and priorities are in this situation:
"Healthy animals are put down in shelters every day," Boswell said. "While the results may be the same (as killing them outside a shelter), it's how you get there."
It's true. Healthy animals are killed every day. That is wrong. Morally. Ethically. Wrong. It is not where they are killed that is at issue, it is that they are killed that is at issue. So Boswell has it right, we kill a lot of animals. But Boswell has it wrong - it isn't how you get there, it is how you get the animals out alive.
As an aside, I want to make it clear that this is not me casting aspersions on shelter workers. I do not believe most of them are morally wrong or ethically unsound people. I feel they are part of a system that is making great leaps and bounds in thinking but that still kills 2-5 million animals a year. I've known wonderful ACOs, people who have helped me move, helped me train dogs, save lives, who have supported me during important times in my life. I never thought the kill room was a nice place nor the job of killing animals a good task. Never. So while I may feel strongly that killing healthy or potentially healthy animals is unacceptable, I do not feel those who participate in the system are evil, awful people. They have great potential for fomenting change, and I hope they do push the envelope and demand a paradigm shift. We all need to.