39 of 100 DOCUMENTS

	The Boston Herald

	May 4, 2003 Sunday ALL EDITIONS

	OP-ED; Man's best friend maybe only in name

	BYLINE: By Arnold Arluke and Jack Levin


	LENGTH: 822 words

	Two recent incidents involving dogs reveal the ugly truth about
	how we, as a society, regard animals.

	In one case, police cited Jarrod Martin of Nashville, Tenn., for
	disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment because he rescued
	his pet pit bull from his burning apartment. Against the orders of
	firefighters on the scene, Martin risked his own safety by
	crossing a safety line and climbing into his burning second-floor
	apartment. After breaking through a glass entryway, he flung his
	dog and himself over a balcony to safety. Firefighters had known
	the dog was in the apartment but were unwilling to take action,
	claiming that it was unsafe to do so.

	In a second case last week, a dog injured in a
	car accident, obviously in pain, was shot in the head by a police
	officer in Clearlake, Calif., to put it out of its misery. It was
	then put in a freezer to await disposal.

	As it turned out, the lucky dog was found to be alive. After
	thawing out and getting veterinary care, the dog miraculously
	survived to be reunited with its happy owners.

	Both rescues involved life-and-death situations for dogs and, in
	one case, for people. Both are dramatic stories with shocking
	details, surprise events and happy endings: The dogs survived
	harrowing circumstances in which death seemed inevitable.
	However, both incidents tell a more important story about what
	Americans really think about "man's best friends" when the chips
	are down.

	To many people, dogs are really not "members of the family" after
	all. Many Americans TALKabout how their animal companions are
	treated as well or even better than are humans. Unfortunately,
	though some people do lavish attention, affection and financial
	resources on their pets, many others do just the opposite - they
	are neglectful, abusive, even cruel. All the talk about being
	"family members" may be just that - talk.

	The litmus test for applying this standard is to substitute
	"human" for "dog" in the two scenarios above, and then ask what
	the outcome would have been. In the dog-trapped-in-burning-home
	incident, the firefighters likely would have been charged with
	gross neglect of duty and perhaps endured public humiliation and
	shame for not intervening. In the
	dog-taken-for-dead-then-discarded incident, the police officer
	would have been charged with attempted murder.

	Would the firefighters have waited so patiently to rescue a child
	trapped in the flames? Just to put her out of her misery, would a
	police officer have shot a woman who had been injured in an
	automobile accident? If the result were the same, then dogs truly
	would be members of the family - small-legged, furry creatures
	that can assume multiple human identities as children, siblings
	and companions. If the result is sharply different, however, then
	we need to stop using the family-member metaphor and admit that
	dogs are - when it really comes down to it - nothing more than

	Though many people regard dogs as family members, their behavior
	does not always follow suit. This disconnect between attitudes and
	behavior is strikingly obvious when we look at how our society
	deals with animal abuse and neglect. Every year, thousands of
	animals around the country are victims of malicious cruelty. There
	is much public support to take strong measures against this kind
	of behavior.

	According to one national survey, when it comes to cruelty, dogs
	are not just dogs. Some 71 percent of adults favor making animal
	abuse a felony. And 81 percent approve strengthening the
	enforcement of cruelty laws. About 83 percent favor teachers,
	social workers, animal welfare officers and law enforcement
	officials sharing information on juveniles who abuse animals as an
	early warning sign of criminal behavior. And 75 percent support
	the establishment of a system for tracking adult animal cruelty
	offenders as a tool for identifying other kinds of likely violent

	These attitudes do not translate into behavior. Even in the most
	extreme cases, a majority of the animal abusers are not found
	guilty in court. Most don't even get to trial. When they do, they
	typically receive a slap on the wrist for a misdemeanor rather
	than face felony charges. In some states, only one in 10 of those
	convicted receive jail sentences. And fines are minimal when
	imposed, averaging $ 132. If the same crimes of violence were
	committed against children, the abusers likely would face stiff

	Like apple pie and motherhood, everyone claims to like dogs - many
	say they love them. These positive attitudes are built into our
	culture and passed on to future generations, but so too is our
	poor treatment of animals. It is an American problem because in
	the end, people will be people but dogs are only dogs.

	Arnold Arluke is professor of sociology at Northeastern University
	and author of "Regarding Animals." Jack Levin is director of the
	Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict also at Northeastern.

	LOAD-DATE: May 04, 2003


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