DEAR ABBY: After 30 years of reading your column, I am impelled to respond to "Seen It in Seattle," the letter regarding the St. Bernard who was teased by a neighbor child until it turned vicious and finally had to be euthanized.
I am sorely troubled by that letter. Do you realize how many systematic acts of cruelty that would have taken, especially for a breed as placid and gentle as a St. Bernard?
One has to ask -- where were the parents, the neighbors, the owners of the dog? Why would so many people look on impassively while a tethered animal was tortured into insanity? The way the helpless are treated is the measure of a society.
People of good will and conscience MUST speak up when they witness abuse. Abby, please encourage readers to be a voice for the voiceless. -- PUZZLED IN CORAL SPRINGS, FLA.
DEAR PUZZLED: I already do -- and with the help of people like you I will continue to do so. All that is needed for evil to thrive is for people of good will to look the other way. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: This concerns the letter about the child's cruelty to the St. Bernard. This is a difficult letter to write because, as a child, I physically abused cats and dogs. It was not because I had a "conduct disorder" -- it was because I myself was beaten and sexually molested by my father on a regular basis from the time I was 4 years old until I was a young teen-ager.
The pain I caused those animals haunts me to this day. For the past several years, I have volunteered at my local animal shelter. I have also rescued cats and dogs. It's a small way to make amends for what I did as a child.
The reason for my letter is to warn adults not to just look at the child who is abusing the animals, but to look at who could possibly be abusing the child. -- SURVIVOR IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SURVIVOR: You have written a powerful letter. A child who abuses animals -- or other children -- desperately needs intervention and professional help. You are not the only reader to point out that this could indicate abuse in the household. Children from healthy, loving families rarely become abusers. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The first cruelty in this case was keeping the poor dog tied up all day every day. If the dog's owners could not provide a fenced yard, they should never have taken the dog.
The late, famed anthropologist Margaret Mead said: "One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to torture or kill an animal and get away with it."
The child in this case needs help and isn't getting it, and -- as is usually the sad case -- the poor dog paid the price after having suffered for so long. -- ELEANOR J., COTTONDALE, ALA.
DEAR ELEANOR: Anyone who sees an animal being abused should telephone the SPCA, animal control and/or the police. If the perpetrator doesn't get help, a child could be next.