Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heartlessness in America's heartland

In most Native American cultures animals were viewed as equal to humans.  Of course, animals were hunted, but only for food, and no part of the animal was wasted. It was common practice to ask the spirit of the animal  permission to take the life of the animal before it was killed.
Prior to becoming a state in 1907, a similar attitude was held throughout what is now Oklahoma. At that time schools were required to spend at least 30 minutes each day teaching animal welfare. Children were required to learn compassion and humane treatment of "dumb animals" as they were considered at that time.
It seems to be a very different attitude that we see in Oklahoma today. A survey was done recently to gather information on animal shelters within the state. There are a total of 136 shelters in the state of Oklahoma, of those, 28 provided no data. Eight of those shelters told surveyors they would not provide any data, the rest didn't return calls or couldn't be reached. Only 33 of the state shelters complied fully with the survey. The survey resulted in some disturbing data about animal welfare in the state of Oklahoma. Euthanasia methods ranged from lethal injection to gas chambers to heartstick to  bullets to the head. Some of the shelters fail to comply with state animal sterilization laws, unaltered animals are released to adopters at some shelters. The majority of people living in rural areas have no access to animal shelters at all, the shelters only accept animals from within the city where they are located, those of us outside city limits have no shelter resources available. Oklahoma state law allows countywide access to animal shelters only in counties with populations over 200,000, only three counties in the state have populations that meet this guideline. None of those counties provide a county wide animal shelter or animal control. I guess that explains all the animals I see wandering the streets, getting hit by cars. Animal dumping  is rampant in the state and spayed and neutered pets are rare in rural settings. Several attempts to get rid of the population mandates that restrict the ability of counties to provide shelters have been made, they are shot down by the association of county commissioners every time, just as the attempts to ban the use of gas chambers in shelters have been shot down the last two years. Animal  welfare laws are motivated by something other than compassion in the state of Oklahoma. There have been numerous horror stories about conditions and incidents In Oklahoma animal shelters, only a few actually make the news.
Lawmakers and officials at all levels in Oklahoma like to tell people that it's only "outsiders" that are bothered by the way things are done here. I know this isn't true, there is an ever increasing number of Oklahoma citizens that are not happy with the way animal welfare, along with a number of other issues, is handled. 
Somewhere in the early part of the last century Oklahoma got stuck, many ideas and practices within the state are throwbacks to a much earlier, less enlightened time. Unfortunately for the animals at least, it isn't the time when compassion for animals was taught in schools.