Editorial: Breaking law harms cause of animal welfare

Few public policy issues are as emotionally weighted as animal welfare. Recent events bear that out. Advocates for animal welfare have gone so far as trespassing and, in one reported case, stealing an animal from its owner and turning the animal in at the local humane society.

This is outrageous and dangerous.

However pure someone’s intentions may be, we are still a society of laws. No one has any right to trespass, let alone steal from someone else. And no one should be surprised when people caught doing such things are arrested and charged, as has happened in at least one case.

An Australian shepherd named Buddy on a farm near Hope lately has been the focus of local animal welfare advocates who believe the dog is being mistreated. People have repeatedly called Bartholomew County Animal Control to check on Buddy, as is the process. And over and over, animal control, followed by officials up to Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers and Commissioner Larry Klienhenz have gone out, inspected, and found Buddy was healthy, had plenty of water, shade and was not malnourished.

But that hasn’t stopped people who are not authorized to act from taking the law into their own hands. And that’s a problem. People who do this are putting themselves and others at risk and creating headaches for law enforcement and emergency responders.

“I want to be clear, if people are going on private property and taking dogs, it is a criminal issue and we will build a case and turn it over to the prosecutor’s office” Myers told The Republic.

He also explained why this is such a problem and potential public safety risk: “If someone is having a medical issue or an emergency and we don’t have anyone to send because of these false allegations from social media, about a dog, it could become a serious issue.”

Moreover, though, people who are taking these matters into their own hands are also putting at risk the very animal-welfare reforms that responsible animal advocates wish to see.

The Republic has advocated in this space for more stringent animal welfare regulations in Bartholomew County that more closely align with those in Columbus. That has not happened, but it should.

We stand by what we said in an editorial in November:

“We agree that changes are needed. So is consistency.

“The city and county have an opportunity here to act boldly to set some basic minimum standards to prevent the abuse and mistreatment of pets, and clearly, plenty of people of good will are eager to help. Our leaders should appoint a panel of community stakeholders to not only rewrite vague regulations, but to raise the expectations we set for pet owners. Let this be a democratic process from the ground up that considers many voices and points of view with the simple goal of making this city and county a great place to be a dog or cat.”

We believe it’s in everyone’s best interests for our community to place a high value on animal welfare. We believe our county’s leaders should take this opportunity to turn this situation into a positive one by looking at model community standards and bringing more voices to the table to develop a clear set of uniform regulations that promote animal welfare.