Not long ago, it was the RCMP and Bay Roberts: the police were called to a property on a complaint about two malnourished dogs. What they found was a beagle that was clearly in distress and another of the same breed that had already died of exposure. They also found a small dog shelter virtually ignored in a snowy field.
Friday, the RNC issued a news release saying they had seized two dogs from a home on Thorburn Road in St. Philip’s: “It was found that two beagle dogs appeared to be malnourished and there was inadequate food, water and shelter for them. The dogs were seized from the property and taken to a veterinary hospital for treatment.”
Once again, there were charges under the Animal Health and Protection Act. And once again, it was beagles. Too often, it’s beagles.
A stranger to this province might be forgiven for thinking that we had some sort of peculiar dislike for the breed, that perhaps we thought them cute as puppies but then exiled them to dog runs or chained them to dog houses almost year-round because we couldn’t abide their sad-eyed stares or something.
The truth is harsher.
There are a fair number of beagles in this province that are owned by people who just don’t care about them as pets. The breed is a popular tracking dog for rabbit hunters, and there are people who view their dogs as working animals that can be penned and ignored when not being used to hunt.
Not all hunters are the same. In fact, there are plenty of hunters who treat their beagles like members of the family, pampering them the way many people do their pets.
But the late-night howling of beagles calling from their outdoor pens is a sound that can be heard all over this island: it is a sliver of the night soundscape that is both familiar and
Far too many of them are howling because most of their life is spent at the end of a chain in the cold and loneliness. That doesn’t even take into account the dogs that are shot or abandoned in the woods because they don’t — or can’t — hunt any longer.
It is a part of a way of thinking that is long overdue for a change. And perhaps, as the police enforce the new Animal Health and Protection Act, issue press releases and release photographs of the abysmal conditions some of these animals live in, perhaps the public revulsion will help change an attitude that seems to accept what can only be called animal abuse.
Hunters — or anyone else — found to have essentially abandoned their animals to the elements should not only be charged and fined. They should be blocked from owning animals completely unless they can demonstrate that they understand that ownership involves full-time care, not a miserable near-starving life on the end of a chain.