David Morton’s recent article detailing a citizen’s wrath towards a peahen on her property (“Roost Beef,” 8/29) made light of what can only be described as abuse of a harmless wild animal.
While the article emphasized the many aggressive ways in which the woman tried to rid her yard of the peahen, it made no mention of D.C. laws that protect animals from such abuse. It also mentioned nothing about where the bird-intolerant woman (and other disgruntled citizens) can call for help. Last year, the Washington Humane Society rescued more than 2,600 wild animals from dangerous urban situations. Each of those animals was rescued because someone called us for help instead of choosing to torment a helpless animal.
At one point, the author stated that the woman’s 8-year-old grandson loves the bird and shows his affection in the only way he apparently knows: by chasing the bird around the yard and pelting the animal with eggs from the refrigerator. Regarding her grandchild’s behavior, the complainant was quoted as saying she “beat him to death” for wasting food. I doubt many readers found it endearing or humorous to read about both this woman’s hatred and torment of wildlife and her practice of corporal punishment.
Recent studies document that violent offenders in the criminal justice systemthose convicted of domestic violence, child abuse, and even serial murderfrequently have long childhood and adolescent histories of committing serious and repeated acts of animal cruelty. If permitted (or encouraged by adults) to hurt animals, children are more likely to be violent in later years. Likewise, such behavior is often an indicator of other abuses within the family. The statement attributed to the woman regarding her grandchild’s behavior is a cause for concern.
Rather than making light of the woman’s comments, perhaps the reporter or the Washington City Paper’s editors should have taken the initiative to report the woman’s threats and her actions, as well as the boy’s, to the proper authorities.
As the agency chartered to enforce D.C. animal-protection laws since 1870, the Washington Humane Society often makes referrals to other agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Child and Family Services, adult protective services agencies, battered-women’s shelters, and schools. Animal cruelty is often the most visible display of family violence, and our officers often see widespread problems when investigating complaints about animal cruelty and neglect. Their taking the time to report a suspected case of abuse has helped kids, the elderly, and battered women escape their abusers. Suspected abuse of people and animals is not something to be taken lightly.
Concerns about animals, be they cats and dogs, pythons or peahens, should be reported to us at 202-BE-HUMANE. Calls are taken 24 hours a day, and callers may remain anonymous.
Senior Director of Programs
Washington Humane Society