Letters to the editor (03/13/13)

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An open letter to the N.M. Legislature
Editor:
My name is Janelle Chavez, and I run a local animal rescue in Valencia County — Almost Home New Mexico.
My daughters and I have become a resource for the animal shelters when they get in abuse, neglect or starvation victims. We do not get paid for this and most of the money funding it is through my own paycheck working a 40-hours-a-week job.
There is no paid time off, no holidays, no sick days. Our only pay is the knowledge that we changed an animal’s life for the better.
What frustrates us is that our society seems to accept that animals are nothing more than objects to treat and dispose of with no acknowledgement that they are breathing, feeling individuals. The sad part is that my children have grown up rehabilitating animals so when they see it, though it makes them mad, they are no longer surprised by it.
They have learned growing up that some people care nothing about human beings, much less animals, and with laws in our state being as lax as they are there is very little reason for these individuals to stop harming animals.
One story that still breaks my heart is Sweetie’s. Sweetie was left tied to the animal shelter gate one night. She was emaciated and had large sores on her back end, likely from having to sit in her own excrement for who knows how long.
The day we got the emergency call from the shelter for help, we went in and we took her straight to our vet to stabilize her. Though people had done this to her, though people had failed her (not only her owners, but every single person who knew of her existence) and her body was shutting down to conserve energy (our vet said her heart was slowing to keep her alive), she had tail wags and kisses for everyone who said hello to her.
How long was she kept like this? Could you imagine the pain she felt as the excrement got into the open sores, the pain in her belly from being hungry for so long? Did she live like this for her entire life? The vet estimated she was 6 years old.
There was not a dry eye at the clinic as everyone was touched by the love she showed to people, despite what people had done to her. Sweetie had multiple chronic health problems as a result of her extreme neglect over a long period of time and she eventually died. The only good news is that she knew some compassion and care near the end of her life.
Our society is routinely teaching children a horrible lesson by allowing this behavior to continue with few or no repercussions.  What we have seen though through the years is that most sociopaths, most mass murderers and most abusers got their start by harming animals. Why do we tolerate extreme animal cruelty when we know these actions also harm people?
New Mexico needs stronger and more effective statewide animal cruelty laws so people will think twice before hurting an animal. Our society can do so much better to try and stop this cycle rather than allowing it to continue and risking the safety of our own parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren and pets.
My family, along with countless other rescues and shelters in New Mexico, have taken it upon ourselves to try and save as many of these abused and neglected individuals as we can.
It is frustrating and baffling that we cannot have the law backing us up so it would be harder for these crimes to even be committed. The tolerance for this bad behavior leaves us fighting a losing battle against such terrible suffering.
If individuals see that there are serious consequences for abusing animals, if they are made very aware of the laws and associated consequences, they will think twice about beating that puppy or wiring that dog’s muzzle shut. By getting people to think twice about their actions against their pets then maybe they will think twice about their actions against their own family members. This change can and will be a win-win for our entire state.
Thank you so much to everyone working to help others and ease suffering in New Mexico; please support House Bill 224 and Senate Bill 83 to strengthen our animal cruelty laws and protect our communities.

Janelle Chavez
Founder and director of
Almost Home New Mexico