Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Help for Dogs in Vermont. . .

Just wanted to post an update on my gloomy walk from yesterday. I couldn't stop thinking about that dog, so when my husband and I were on our way to a meeting at 5:30, I checked again and the dog was STILL outside. I was so angry. I spent most of the meeting, where I was supposed to be taking notes and acting interested, mulling things over in my head. What could I do? What could I do? On the way home we checked again, and the dog was still chained. By now the temperature had dropped. The dog was jumping up at the windows of the house, wanting to get inside.

My husband asked if I wanted to go back. I said yes, not sure what I was going to do. We pulled into the driveway and the lights were on inside, the television blaring. I said a quick prayer and walked to the door. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hi, I just stopped because I was worried about your dog."
Owner: "You were worried about my dog? Why?"
M: "Well, it's really wet out here and she looks cold. You know, if you extended this chain just another foot or two, she could get into the garage and out of the rain."
O: "Oh, she's just out here to go to the bathroom. Don't worry, I take good care of my dog."
M: "Well, I was walking by this morning and I saw her out then. It's been raining all day."
O: "Nalah doesn't stay out. I always let her in at night. She's fine."

I might have mumbled something else before going back to the car. I knew I probably hadn't really helped but I felt better. At least I had the chance to say something.

First thing this morning, at 5:30, I drove back over to the house in my pajamas and a big coat. It was snowing by now and very cold. The dog was still outside, chained, and the house was pitch black. I guess saying "I always let her in at night," must mean something else to other people.

So, I pondered my options.

Luckily, my sister, Faith, remembered hearing about a fairly new organization here in Vermont which people can contact if they see an animal being abused or neglected. The name of it is the Vermont Humane Federation. Their Web site is here. In addition to the contact information, there are a lot of other good articles and legislative information, useful even if you don't live in Vermont. I was instructed by the site to contact my local humane society to file a complaint, which I did as soon as they opened.

Rusty, the helpful woman who took my call, stated that she and/or a local veterinarian would do a drive-by and then speak to the owner within the next day or two. I found out on the ASPCA Web site that in the state of Vermont it is a law that all cattle and dogs should have a minimum of a shelter to keep them from the elements. Rusty reiterated that, stating that dogs need at least a three sided dwelling with a roof if they are to stay outside. There is no law in Vermont currently that prohibits a dog owner from keeping their dog chained outside 24/7, however. According to the Vermont Humane Federation, if an animal advocate talking with an owner doesn't work, an animal is sometimes removed from the premises. I have a feeling this happens rarely though, and most likely in more extreme situations like starvation/beating/etc.

Sometimes I feel frustrated with the small town that I live in. In many ways it's wonderful--it feels relatively cozy and safe. I know a lot of people here. Life moves slowly. We don't have a lot of street crime, but poverty in the area does make drug/alcohol abuse as well as domestic/child abuse (and thus, animal abuse) a huge problem.

So, I wanted to post an update on the dog situation, and hopefully to share some resources that might be helpful to you. Check the ASPCA link out if you want information about your own state animal laws. I'll post any updates about the dog as I hear them. And I'm going to keep researching ways that I can spread the word about the Vermont Humane Federation and the local humane society in this area of the state.

And if you want to say a prayer for Nalah, the dog, I'm sure she would appreciate it.

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