Prevention of animal cruelty is a year-round priority for animal lovers, the ASPCA has designated April to emphasize the importance of giving dogs the care that they deserve. Almost everyone agrees that intentional physical abuse of a dog is wrong, but there is another form of mistreatment which is just as painful to a dog, and is often not recognized as abuse at all. It is neglect.

Our laws require that a companion animal receive food and shelter, but there is no way to guarantee that an animal receive attention, and, for a dog, the absence of human affection is tragic. Dogs need to socialize and have companionship, so keeping a dog isolated usually results in miserable, lonely dogs who exhibit unacceptable behaviors. People sometimes mistakenly believe that a dog will be happy in the back yard all the time, but such dogs are inevitably sad, and bored, desperately wanting time with their humans.

A cruel form of containment which often accompanies the “backyard dog” syndrome is chaining. Besides isolation, the chained dog suffers the added frustration of not being able to do basic dog actions such as running and sniffing his own yard. When neglected dogs manage to get human contact, they are usually over-excited from deprivation and are likely to misbehave. Ironically, most dogs that are banished to the backyard never develop house manners or social skills and so, if they are occasionally allowed in the house, they do poorly and re-condemn themselves to solitude.

Neglected dogs suffer from greatly increased aggression, digging, barking and howling problems and are at great risk of being relinquished. The realities of our hectic lives often require that dogs spend part of the day in the back yard, and many of these animals receive plenty of attention and are happy and healthy, but to continually isolate a dog is no way to treat man’s best friend. Every neighborhood has dogs who are not receiving the attention they deserve, and often this is because caregivers lack financial resources, or honestly don’t understand their pet’s needs, not necessarily a desire to intentionally cause pain and suffering.

The key to preventing neglect is education, and sometimes just explaining to the caregivers in a non-threatening way why you have concerns for their dog might motivate some changes. Although it may seem unlikely that simply pointing out the neglect will be enough to remedy it, sometimes that’s all it take, if offered in a friendly, rather than accusatory, approach. Offer to visit with and/or walk the dog or offer to find the dog a new home. Even though it may take time and patience to improve a sad situation, the reward of knowing that an animal will enjoy a better life as a result of your efforts will be well worth it!!

A Plea for Love

by Sandy Finmore

“As I sit here all alone, I remember the days when I was a little puppy and everyone loved me. The kids used to brush my fur and play ball, and laugh and snuggle, but now I hardly see anyone. I vaguely remember the daily walks and romping in the grass, but now all I have is memories. My coat is tangled and under my collar is sore; I know I have fleas, and a couple of ticks, maybe even more. Some days I get fresh water and food, and sometimes nothing, but worse than no food is the fact that there is no love, no affection, no pats on the head. What did I do to deserve this lonely life? Does anyone care?”