I read a comment in the Herald Bulletin this week I found upsetting. It was in regard to the tragedy of two people dying as a result of the extreme weather we experienced. The gist of the comment was that if people only cared half as much about humans as they do stray animals then people would not have died or suffered from exposure to the weather. At least in Madison County it is safe to say that no human suffered or did not get the attention they needed because animals were being rescued instead.
In the best of times animals and animal issues of neglect and abuse are at the bottom of the totem pole. And in the statewide emergency that we just experienced they aren't even on the totem pole. No question, people come first. During this state of emergency calls about animals who were chained outside with no shelter in sub-zero weather were not addressed unless it was by rescues or private citizens. Law enforcement personnel, animal control officers included did not respond to animals in peril the first few days of the weather emergency because they were needed for human emergencies.
Some do not realize just how bad it was in our county. There were people literally snowed in — the National Guard came to assist the County for people who were in need of medical attention. Animal issues could not be addressed unless by rescues or private citizens. Did animals suffer and die? Yes.
As I've said before: I believe how a society treats its animals is a reflection of who we are morally and spiritually. It is a reflection of our humanity and compassion. You do not have to be an animal lover to have empathy and compassion for the suffering of another living creature. Contrary to what non-animal lovers believe, animal lovers do not care more about animals than people; they simply love animals and often prefer their company.
I had someone say to me once that if there was a starving dog and a starving human I would feed the dog. I asked why I couldn't feed both. Why do I have to choose? It does not have to be an either-or situation. We can have a passion for animals who do not have a voice and have a passion for people and our issues as well. In this wonderful country we have overwhelming abundance; theoretically no one animal or human should go hungry. It is difficult to watch animals live and die on a chain — particularly in extreme weather knowing they are suffering and that there is no help to be had. I would suggest that one's moral compass is a bit lacking if you cannot have compassion and empathy for other living beings; human and animal.
Animal issues in our community often are not addressed due to lack of money and manpower. I believe we can do better. There are solutions — perhaps not traditional ones, but solutions all the same. It will come down to how committed we are for change, admitting there is a problem and a willingness to work together.
Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 765-356-0900.