The senseless death of Cecil the lion dominated the news recently, and although there are conflicting reports concerning this now-world famous lion, everyone expressed huge disgust and sadness. Cecil, a 13 year old major attraction at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, was being studied and tracked by Oxford University as part of a larger study, and was a favorite tourist attraction at the park. In June of this year, an American recreational big-game hunter paid more than $50,000 to a professional hunter to enable him to kill a lion. Allegedly, Cecil was lured out of the sanctuary where he was safe, where he was shot and wounded with an arrow. He was tracked for several days and was finally killed with a rifle, skinned, and his head removed. His headless skeleton was found by park investigators, and the killing has drawn international media attention and well-deserved outrage. The American hunter left Zimbabwe and returned to the United States where he expressed regret for the killing, maintaining that he had relied on the expertise of local professional guides to ensure that the hunt was legal. His public statement concluded with “I regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in taking this lion.”
I join the millions who feel huge disgust and sadness over the senseless death of Cecil, but I feel even more sadness and disgust over the comments made by Cecil’s killer concerning his “pursuit of an activity that he loves and practices responsibly and legally.” Celebrities have been vocal in reacting to this incident; the politicians have been vocal; the general public has been vocal: everyone has expressed shock and horror; everyone is outraged about this horrendous incident, and loudly demands that “something has to be done.” Yet many of these same people seem indifferent to the plight of the hundreds of innocent companion animals that suffer daily, not in some far off place like Zimbabwe, but right here in our own country, sometimes in our own neighborhoods. Where are the celebrities when an ordinary frightened dog of unknown ancestry is dumped along a deserted country road? Where is the public outcry when an animal is battered and beaten, and the excuse is, “He’s my property; I can do what I want to with him? “ Where are our politicians when they have the opportunity to pass common sense laws that would make life easier for innocent, dependent companion animals? Is it possible that our priorities and our value systems have somehow run amuck? Perhaps those who are blessed with enough wealth to spend $50,000 on frivolous ego-centered activities could consider options that might enhance the wellbeing of others, and all animal lovers, regardless of their financial status, can find ways to make a difference right in their own communities.
- Be a responsible pet caregiver and set a positive example to others. Spay or neuter your own animal and educate others about the importance of altering their pets.
- Keep updated on legislation to protect the animals… all states have important grassroots organizations that would welcome your involvement Iowa Voters for Companion Animals is an Iowa based animal advocacy group concerned about the welfare of Iowa dogs. This group provides updated information regarding legislative action (and inaction) concerning animal welfare issues. For information on this group contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Get to know the animals in your neighborhood. Keep an eye out for abuse and neglect of companion animals, animals left outdoors without shelter and other signs of abuse. Talk to the caregiver and suggest ways to improve the situation, and, if necessary, report problems to the authorities. Sometimes the elderly or ill have difficulty providing essential pet care, and they would welcome assistance walking the dog, cleaning, grooming, etc.
- Rescue groups and animal shelters across the country are always in need of volunteers! Call your local group and ask how you can help make a difference in the lives of the animals housed at their facility. If you want to feel good, volunteer!!! Pet therapy is an awesome mood enhancer!!!!!
By the time this piece is printed, Cecil will be old news, and the celebrities , the politicians, and the general public will be focusing on new issues….but the issue involving the plight of our companion animals remains: “unseen they suffer…unheard they cry…in agony they linger, and in loneliness they die,” One of Shel Silverstein’s poems refers to “all those woulda-coulda-shoulda’s talkin’ about all the things they woulda-coulda-shoulda done,” and it is a choice whether to be woulda-coulda-shouldas, or committed doers. The TLC is one Iowa based, non-profit 501(c) 3 group working to help needy dogs, and right now really needs committed doers, so if you are interested, please check out the website at tlccaninecenter.com. to discover specific ways you can become involved!