This week I’ve been following the story of Patrick, the one-year old pit bull who was tied to an apartment balcony railing in New Jersey, left for a week, and, when his owner returned, thrown 19 stories down a garbage chute, barely alive. Not only was Patrick (named by his rescuers because he was found just before St. Patrick’s Day) starved the week when he was left alone, but he had evidently been starved for weeks before that time, because when found he weighed only 20 pounds and was literally skin and bones. A maintenance worker discovered him days later in a plastic bag buried in the dumpster and called the authorities. The veterinarians who have been caring for him at Garden State Veterinary Specialists said that he was within hours of death when he was found, and animal control officers said that his was the one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they’d ever seen.
The case of Patrick, the dog thrown out as garbage, has captured the hearts of thousands of people around the country who have been following the story. Each day I search for the latest news on him, and search for new pictures and videos showing his slow recovery. Each day I cry anew over the haunting images of this emaciated dog, with his large expressive eyes peering out of his bony head.
Today I learned that Kisha Curtis, the 27-year old woman who owned him, pleaded not guilty to four counts of animal abuse, saying that someone else threw Patrick down the garbage chute (although apparently she is not contesting the fact that she starved him almost to death). I also learned that local animal advocates are trying to pass a law that they’re calling Patrick’s Law mandating stronger legislation for animal abuse.
While I continue to be cheered by news of Patrick’s recovery (He’s standing up! He’s pooping! He’s wagging his tail! He’s snuggling his blue stuffed dog!), I worry that soon the Patrick backlash will begin. I worry that people will start with the inevitable questions: why are people spending so much time and money worrying about this one dog when there are starving children in the world? Why aren’t people calling the district attorney to demand punishment when crimes against people are being committed? And, because Curtis is African American, I fear the racial comments. There will be, I am sure, racist comments by animal advocates about Curtis, and there will be, I expect, comments from African Americans asking why so many (white) people care more about animals than about people, and especially, black people.
I wonder if there’s a way in which Patrick can be cared for and his abuser prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, without this almost inevitable backlash? Can we ever consider a case of horrific animal cruelty without comparing it to human suffering, and demanding that all compassion that we feel for a suffering animal be redirected towards humans? And will we ever reach a time where people can recognize that all cruelty, and all suffering, whether experienced by a human or non-human, is categorically wrong, and should be condemned at all costs?
You can find out more about Patrick, and follow his recovery, at the website of the Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park Zoo.