Author: Kate Harveston

Many people who have pets think of them as a part of their family. But not everyone shares such compassion for animals. This can be because of ignorance about the animal’s needs, inability to provide or a simple lack of empathy. Whatever the reason, our animal friends need our help, not our ignorance.

  1. Tiger Temple in Thailand

The Tiger Temple tourist attraction in Thailand, where a group of Buddhist monks supposedly made peace with rescued tigers, has come under fire. The premise of the temple was that any tiger who needed rescuing could be brought there. The monks were apparently able to train the tigers to be peaceful and safe for tourists to be around and have only reported one attack.

This alone was a red flag because the monks were allowing people, including children, to come and interact directly with the tigers. Why the tigers tolerated this attention is still unclear, although there is no doubt that it puts both the tigers and the people at great risk. Then came the raid.

Eventually, the police in Thailand were able to get permission to raid the temple. When they did, they seized all 137 adult tigers on the premise, but they also found a disturbing surprise. The bodies of 40 frozen tiger cubs, tiger pelts, and a variety of other endangered animal pieces. This is a situation that is typical of endangered animal trafficking, which is widespread and hard to track in East Asia.

The monastery was closed after this discovery but is set to reopen under a new name in 2017.

2. Hit and Run

Earlier this year, a father posted a video online of a hit and run that injured his young daughter and killed his dog. The girl was 13-years-old while the dog, a white Chow Chow, was still just a puppy. The driver fled the scene and has yet to be identified despite the offer of a reward. The man probably ran because he was afraid of being charged, but the health and safety of victims should always be more important

Accidents happen. If you’ve lived in a rural area, there’s a good chance you’ve hit an animal of some kind. Knowing what to do if you’re involved in an accident with an animal is vital, no matter where you live. If you’ve hit a dog, like the story above, the last thing you want to do is drive off. Instead, stop, stay and try to help.

Many people don’t know that the dog owner is actually considered at fault in most of these cases, since pet owners are supposed to ensure their dogs are properly restrained. No matter what, you should never drive away from a dog that you’ve hit, but you especially don’t have to do so out of fear of consequences. In fact, the personal risk is actually much higher if you leave the scene. In some states, you can face animal cruelty charges if you flee the scene of an accident involving a dog.

3. Elephants in Captivity

Elephants are popular attractions in zoos and circuses but are simultaneously known as one of the top five intelligent animals on the planet. The result is that most methods of captivity are incredibly subpar for what we know they need. Circuses are especially cruel. Yes, elephants can stand on their hind legs, but they almost never do — they certainly never stand on their heads.

The main tool for training elephants is called a bullhook, and its entire purpose is to create pain. Most elephants are actually trained when they’re babies and easier to push around. The result is that they don’t question the person holding the bullhook because they already associate it with pain.

As a society, we’ve arguably come a long way in our treatment of animals since we first started keeping them. But there’s still plenty more to be done. If we are going to keep them in our homes we have a responsibility to give them what they need. We need to be educating the general public about the appropriate ways to treat and respond to animals, both in the wild and at home. And performance, “edu-tainment” and folklore are never appropriate uses for animals.

Kate Harveston is a political activist seeking to inspire change through her writing. She writes on issues of justice and fundamental rights. She takes special interest in all things that are feminist, green or walking on four paws. For more of her politically-charged writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.