I hate to start off a piece by stating the blindingly obvious, but for a lot of the country, it is COLD outside right now. The Northeast and Midwest are facing a brutal winter that’s colder than anything seen in the U.S. for 20 years. Even in places like Atlanta, where they’re used to having relatively mild winters, people are looking for the thickest, warmest coats they can find. (Side note: Before we even get into it, no, this extreme cold does not mean that climate change is a myth made up by rogue scientists and political pundits; please look up the difference between climate and weather before commenting.)
For hardworking dog writers like myself, the cold weather means a lot of stories about cold dogs. Just this morning, Michael Leaverton wrote about a dog who froze to the ground; yesterday, I wrote about how 40 dogs were seized from a puppy farm in New York because they were left outside with little protection.
Today, the news gives us yet another story about dogs stuck out in the cold. An online petition is asking Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell to remove two German Shepherds from their owner because the dogs have been left out in the cold. As of this writing, the petition has gotten almost 3,800 signatures since it was launched on Jan. 8 (which is a day ago, as of this writing).
The story of the petition shows the odd nature of politics on the Internet. Even though the dogs live in Kalamazoo, the petition was started by Sharon Rushen, a resident of New Jersey. Rushen was inspired when Kristan Daniel used Facebook to write about her concerns regarding her neighbors' dogs. She also contacted local television station WWMT, which did a story on the dogs and talked to their owner, Donnie Anderson. And then, as they say, the story went viral.
Temperatures in Kalamazoo are hitting minus-40 if you factor in wind-chill factor. Anderson told the news crew that his dogs were very well taken care of, and that they were born outside and stay outside. When police checked out Daniel's complaint about the dogs, they said that Anderson was in compliance with the law, which requires that dogs have enough food, water, and shelter to keep them from losing body condition.
Daniel told MLive.com that "I think there needs to be stricter laws for specific weather conditions like these. I don't think any pet should be left outside. It's just too cold."
Nevertheless, she has very mixed feelings about the petition.
"I think it's great but I don't want people to think I'm doing this because it's my neighbors, because it's more about all animals," she said. "I just feel like for all animals, something needs to change."
She also alleges that this is not new for Anderson, and she claims that one of his dogs died last year and remained in the cage all day before the body was taken away. (The petition alleges that the dog froze to death, but I can't find a mention of cause on Daniel's Facebook page.)
The social media campaign does seem to be having an effect on Anderson. Yesterday, Daniel wrote on Facebook that he had taken the dogs in and given them fresh straw in their cages when he came out in the morning.
Like I said at the beginning, it is really, really cold outside these days. Forty below is nothing to sneeze at, and I think most people would recommend bringing dogs inside when the temperature drops that low. Daniel also alleges that although the dogs have food and water, both have been frozen by the cold.
But is a petition to the governor, started by a woman in another state, going after the problem with an awfully big stick? The petition says nothing about making the changes that Daniel mentions; it's all about getting the authorities to take two dogs away from one man, Donnie Anderson. That seems like an awful lot of sound and fury that, in the end, accomplishes little. It's genuinely good to see people showing concern for the health of dogs, whether they're in the neighborhood or far away. But if you petition only for one or two dogs at a time, it will be a very long time before real change gets made.
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