DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your column about animal suffering and the need for better animal protection laws -- and for their enforcement. It was refreshing to see my beliefs so succinctly expressed.
For years, I have been calling for all acts of animal abuse to be federal felonies. Local laws are not the answer when the entire country needs to have the same policies. We should also have a federal registry of animal abusers like we have for sexual predators. The public should have access to that information.
There are so many pets that live in despair. Animal care personnel or police should not have to get permission from abusers in order to take animals out of hellish situations.
Animals should not be used in labs, where many are kept in bare cages without any socialization and endure torture until being killed. Their lives are nothing but fear, pain and hopelessness. Their only escape is death. And farm animals should have the same protections as other animals.
A huge number of abandoned and homeless pets are trying to survive on the streets. The animal care groups that are meagerly funded by government are useless in addressing this problem; they have revolving doors, taking in strays and killing them to make room for a new batch. They don't take care of the medical needs of the animals, and probably kill more animals than they adopt out. The not-for-profit groups do as much as they can for the animals, but our tax dollars don't support them. They have to depend on donations in order to keep their doors open.
I believe there are many people who would join a movement dedicated to making the changes our society needs, but efforts today are scattered, and the funding isn't there. I just want to know: Where is our humanity? -- J.G., Boynton Beach, Florida
DEAR J.G.: It is evident from the United Nation's 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ipbes.net/assessment-reports/eca) that we have yet to learn to share this planet with other intelligent life forms. Doing so would be for our own good, which is bound to that of the other beings who compose and sustain the planet's community, even if we do not respect and care for the least of them. Without the ethics of respect and care, we are less than human and have become the most dangerous species on Earth. Inhumanity has no bounds -- ecologically, spiritually or ethically.
The ethics of respect and care awaken compassion and empathy, broadening into bioethics and giving rise to the One Health movement, which is now recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/onehealth). The One Health framework is being embraced by more and more physicians, veterinarians, farmers, foresters and others who wish to protect animals and natural resources.
War, slavery and genocide -- culturally accepted norms throughout all of human history -- have their equivalents in our treatment of animals: the "wars" against pests and predators; the extermination and extinction of many species and their habitats; the enslavement of beasts of burden; the torture of animals to test cosmetics, other consumer products and even military weapons. Domestic animals are still treated primarily as commodities with minimal government oversight, and welfare standards are not always effectively enforced.
It will take a massive cultural shift -- ethically and economically, if not also religiously -- for domesticated and captive wild animals (such as those on fur farms) not to be regarded as commodities, and wild animals as trophies. In my opinion, that shift is long overdue for the sake of our humanity and the rest of life on Earth!
PET REPTILE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact with pet bearded dragons is the likely cause of the salmonella Uganda infections that affected 44 people across 26 states last year. Of the 33 people with salmonellosis interviewed by public health officials, 21 reported contact with a bearded dragon before falling ill.
The CDC recommends washing your hands after handling a bearded dragon, keeping the reptiles out of the kitchen, not eating or drinking near them, keeping their supplies and habitats clean, and not kissing or snuggling them.
Terrapins (water turtles) are another frequent source of salmonella infections in humans. These and other reptiles should never be released back into the wild: Look at the invasive python issue in Florida. In my opinion, reptiles should never be purchased in the first place, even if bred in captivity rather than being legally imported -- a practice which the U.S. government should prohibit for humane and conservation reasons.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)