Protect the puppies by supporting Prop B
I stopped and held my breath, my hand still on the door. Reluctantly, I stepped on a rough concrete floor and let the door shut behind me. I knew I would have to inhale again, and the sheer thought of it made me nauseous. Two hours later I was still gasping when walking dogs in the crispy air of an early spring morning.
Many visits later, I came to realize that the animal shelter smell is a mixture of wet fur, sickness, hand sanitizer, wet newspapers, urine, chemicals and death. If a human could smell death, I thought, the odor of death would be far more pronounced to a species that relies on scent.
The older dogs were curled up in the far corners of their cages, their lifeless eyes following my every move. The pups were squealing and jumping at me in their damp, cold cages. With no glimmer of hope in their eyes, the older dogs had given up, while the younger ones seemed still hopeful that someone, anyone, would let them out. I could not decide which was more painful to watch—the loss of desire for life or the hopeless zest for it.
We have seen some of these dogs before in malls and pet stores, puppies who look healthy and alert to the untrained eye. But in reality many of them are sick as a result of being bred in crowded, unsanitary conditions, with improper nourishment and inadequate veterinary care and supervision. These dogs end up in shelters because their owners, smitten by the puppies’ jubilant façades in pet stores, cannot afford to care for them.
I cannot now, as I could not then, understand why we humans are so irresponsible and apathetic, why we create such displacement and misery. I cannot understand why we abandon these animals and refuse to provide shelter, food and veterinary care for them. I cannot understand why some people would breed them for profit, failing to provide for their basic needs. I cannot understand why we create an environment in which animals are used, abused and disposed of like trash.
Faced with human cruelty and neglect, these animals remain defenseless—yet more dignified than those who breed them. That so many people breed these animals and neglect them in such massive numbers is a measure of their inhumanity. Although humans have the capacity to be humane, merciful, and responsible toward the animals they breed, too many breeders fall short of being humane, merciful and responsible toward the animals they breed for profit.
As Thomas Edison put it so poignantly, “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Let us shed our savage skins in the 21th century and put on some more humane, dignified and elegant clothing. Let us treat our animals that share our planet with us with the respect and compassion that they deserve.
If you are old enough to vote in the upcoming elections, cast an informed and humane vote to prevent cruelty in Missouri puppy mills. Vote Yes on Proposition B. This is not a matter of animal “rights,” as some would have us believe. This is a matter of human responsibility. As human beings, we have the chance to stop the pain, cruelty and misery. This is our chance to abate one form of needless cruelty. So let’s do it!
Maria Smith is a student at Blue Springs South High School. She lives in Lee’s Summit.