This week, there are two horrifying stories in the news about dogs being dragged to their deaths; in one case, an Oklahoma man named Antonio Ray is in court on charges that he dragged his pit bull to death behind his bike last month. Witnesses reported that the dogs' front legs were tied behind his back and that he was dragged for almost a half mile, until he died in a pool of his own blood.
And in rural Washington last Friday, another dog was tied to a car with a rope around his neck and dragged to his death, with his mangled and bloody body left in a parking lot like an old discarded mattress.
In the Washington case, the police have no suspects, but in the Oklahoma case, Ray, the suspect, has a lengthy criminal history which includes domestic violence and a host of other charges. There is a good chance that whoever killed the dog in Washington has a similar background, because social workers, law enforcement officials and academics all know that there is a strong connection between violence to animals and violence to humans--especially to child abuse and domestic violence.
Animal protection organizations like Animals & Society Institute and the Humane Society of the United States provide training to social workers and members of the law enforcement community on how to recognize signs of animal cruelty in children, in order to both prevent the abuse of animals, and to prevent this abuse from escalating into humans.
But until all members of society take cruelty to animals seriously, cases like these two horror shows will continue to occur. While most Americans are rightly horrified by these stories, we also continue to hear from people who wonder what the fuss is all about--after all, these are just dogs, right?
That's why educating the public about the connection between violence to animals and violence to humans is so important--it demonstrates why we must take this kind of violence seriously.
The sad news is that violence to animals, in and of itself, is not that great of a concern. For instance, we don't even know the name of Ray's dog. We know that he was a pit bull, and statistically, pit bulls are subject to the greatest level of human violence of all dogs. But we don't know his name, how he lived, and whether anyone will miss him. All we know is the horrific circumstances of his death.
Until our society begins to take cruelty to animals seriously, even without recognizing its relationship to human-on-human violence, I fear we will continue to hear stories like this. Both of these dogs matter, and those of us who want to live in a just and compassionate society need to mourn their deaths.