Were you aware that the only animals truly protected under the law are dogs? It’s true, though I couldn’t believe it myself. But for the animal control officer or SPCA to bring any real pressure to bear against a pet store, breeder or even a private citizen, a dog has to be involved; they’re the only ones listed under the law.
I first discovered this bit of legal idiocy one day when I saw some ferrets being mistreated. I was outside a local pet store, just after it closed for a three-day weekend. There were two ferrets in the window. They were young: far too young to have been removed from their mother, neutered, descented, and shipped to the store. But there they were.
What’s worse, the only food they had was cat food that had become soggy, and then hardened into an inedible mass. But I figured someone would be in the following day, so I let it slide… for the moment.
I went back the following day, hoping to see new food in the bowl. No such luck. It didn’t look as though anyone had been in to take care of any of the animals.
Now what do I do?
There was an alarm company’s name and number listed on the window. Brainstorm: They must know how to reach someone. So I called them. Yeah, they could reach someone… in fact, the person on the phone claimed he was one of the owners of the pet store.
Great. I told him he should get someone out to take care of the animals, because the ferrets needed attention. He claimed someone already had taken care of them that morning. Well they need to try again, I replied, because the ferrets’ food hadn’t changed since the night before. He refused.
At this point I told him if someone didn’t come out, I was going to start making calls to the humane society and so on. Go ahead, he replied. He was in compliance for caring for the animals.
So I started making calls. And the bottom line was, if there weren’t any dogs involved, there was nothing anyone could do. Of course, as soon as I heard that, I immediately told them about the puppies that weren’t being cared for either.
That got some action. But without the dogs, nobody spoke English.
I don’t know about you, but I think that stinks. Aren’t ferrets entitled to the same level of protection as dogs? What about cats, rabbits, birds, pot-bellied pigs, and so on? I think so.
So what’s the answer? I think the reason for this inequity is simply an oversight: When the laws were written, the legislators were thinking about their own pets, which happened to be dogs. They probably didn’t even realize that the laws they wrote don’t cover other companion animals.
That being the case, the answer is to tell them: Call, write or e-mail your representative in Congress, and ask why the law doesn’t protect anything but dogs. Let your representative know that you want to see the laws changed - that you want the same protection for your furry friends as dogs enjoy.
And ask your friends to do the same. Remember, while they may not be particularly good about protecting you from big business, Congress loves the opportunity to show that they care about you - especially when it doesn’t cut into the interests of their large contributors.
So call, write… and make some noise. Maybe together we can provide the protection our four-legged friends deserve.