AUSTIN EDITION Inhumane society
Volunteers report rise in cruelty to animals
By Amy Olson
Volunteers at a local animal shelter say they are seeing an increase in cases of cruelty to animals.
Earlier this week, Austin police were called to a trailer park after neighbors reported a 15-week-old puppy was locked inside a shed without food or water after her owners hacked off its ears and attempted to dock its tail with a rubber band.
The shy, tan-colored pit bull cross named Barbara is being cared for by the Mower County Humane Society. The group's volunteers want to find the dog a new home, and they hope Barbara can put a face on what they say is a growing problem of abused animals.
The case is one of several in recent months that humane society volunteers and law enforcement officials have described as disturbing and heinous.
Four dogs have been brought in with shotgun wounds during the last several months, said Mower County Humane Society volunteer Jay Zimmerman. He suspects people upset about the dogs wandering on their property shot at the animals. In another recent case, real estate agents found the carcass of a dead dog chained in the basement of an Austin home. Authorities believe it died from starvation.
"It's really kind of disturbing," Zimmerman said.
Humane Society President Jane Roden said volunteers frequently see signs of physical beatings in dogs that arrive at the shelter. Some cower and shy from loud noises or people of a particular gender. Some lash out. Others, like Barbara, somehow manage to stay pleasant.
The Rev. Barbara Finley-Shea, a pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lyle, has volunteered at the humane society for three years. She sometimes thinks God gave animals better souls than humans.
"An animal would never do this to a human or another animal," Finley-Shea said.
Roden said one older chocolate Labrador recently found along the highway by a State Trooper had to be killed, because of serious problems with hip dysplasia, bad teeth and pneumonia. Roden said the dog was in such bad shape it couldn't reach a torn bag of food left nearby.
"It really makes you sick to think of people throwing them out like common trash," Zimmerman said.
Finding new homes
The all-volunteer group has been working for several years to find good homes for abandoned cats, dogs and other four-legged creatures in need of good homes. In 2000, volunteers found homes for 77 dogs and a number of cats. That number went up to 107 in 2001. So far this year, volunteers have placed 81 dogs.
Zimmerman credits the increase with the society teaming up with Petfinder.org, a Web site sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that helps match pets and potential owners. One couple recently drove eight hours from northern Minnesota after falling in love with a dog after seeing its picture on the Web site. Another adopted a dog after traveling from Rhinelander, Wis.
Zimmerman said this has helped free some kennel space and enabled the humane society to find homes for dogs and cats at the city's animal shelter that might otherwise be euthanized.