Torrance Choates: Our animals of Sumter County need a voice

Published 10:44 am Saturday, February 16, 2019

This has been a very wet and cold winter. Think about these cold days and how you enjoy snuggling up with family and maybe a nice warm fire or the heater blowing, and drinking a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate or even eating a hot bowl of soup and enjoying family, and of course thanking God every day that you are warm and are not in the frigid cold.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the animals that reside in Sumter County. In this column, I am going to shift focus from education and schools to having an educational discussion about some of our poor animals and what they have to endure. Being that I am an animal lover, I see it as a fitting column while going through this rough weather.
It is easy for individuals to make sure that their needs are met and yet neglect their very own animals’ needs. Please keep in mind your animals are supposed to be an extended part of your family. Often times, while driving throughout the community, I have seen animals tied to chains and living in a poorly constructed doghouse. No hay or straw for warmth and just shivering in severely cold weather. (Please note: a plastic igloo dog house is nothing but plastic and can freeze and get cold during cold temperatures). As I look and see this, I often ask myself: does the owner understand that his animal needs warmth, especially in this 30-degree weather? Or, does the owner even give it any thought at all?
I am particularly concerned about the pit-bull species as they are short-haired dogs that do not have the fur as a German Sheppard to help insulate their body temperatures in frigid weather. In 30-degree weather, all pit bulls will shake from coldness due to not having the extra fur for insulation. Pit bulls are also the most common dogs in this area and yet, the most neglected. Tying a dog on a chain and calling that a life is insane! What actually is happening, the dog is being confined to a solitary life. These animals are in need of love and companionship. They want to play and hang out with their masters from day to day. In other words, they would love to be released from the chains and allowed to walk freely and enjoy the companionship. Honestly, most of these dogs are going through severe neglect, and I am not sure if the animals’ owners are even aware of it.
As the human race, God has given us a unique obligation to do the right thing to love and take care of all his living creations. I do not know if we have lived up to His expectations in this area.
The message that I would like to convey is that we, as a community, need to do a better job of taking care of our animals. Dogs have a right to feel love and affection from their owner who has decided to be their owner. The owner has an obligation to spend quality time with their animal to let the animal know that they are loved. And believe me, it is more than bringing food out to them. Also, many people are totally misinformed about giving animals bones to eat. Bones can actually break a dog’s teeth. The nerve endings in their mouth are no different from ours. The only difference they experience is they cannot ask for help; they cannot say, “I cracked a tooth and I need to go to the vet.” Also, ingesting bones causes severe constipation and bones sometimes get lodged in their throats which can splinter and be very detrimental and harmful to your beloved pets. In short, it is important to note that giving your dog bones to eat will also take years off of your dog’s life span.
It is my hope that many in the community will read this and yes, there needs to be action taken for this kind of neglect as I have a lot of conviction in my heart when it comes to animal neglect. These pets do not have a voice and we as a human race need to be a voice for them. We also must do a better job of taking care of our pets that we decided to raise. I also think that law enforcement needs to monitor these various animals that are chained and freezing at night. This can also be a start to a better community. Though I know that there are many citizens in Sumter County who do a tremendous job of taking care of their beloved animals, I am worried about the animals that rarely experience this kind of love!

Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent, Sumter County School system.