More than cats and dogs: Animal abuse in Alabama

By Vannah Smalley

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-June, Shelby Salter’s little girl peers at three caged kittens inside the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter facility. The Metro Animal Shelter provides a temporary home for all strays and other cats and dogs waiting to be adopted, some of which are abused animals received from the City of Tuscaloosa’s Animal Control.

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A young girl looks at three kittens at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. The shelter receives cats and dogs picked up by Animal Control, which rescues animals from abusive homes.

The kittens here are lucky compared to what other animals go through due to their limited protection. In Alabama, there are laws loosely protecting the abuse and mistreatment of domesticated cats and dogs, but there is little to no oversight when it comes to other animals.

Alabama is in the bottom tier of states when it comes to animal protection. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund 2017’s list, it was ranked 41st in the country.

In other states, such as California, there are protections against all mammals and vertebrates and much larger fines, some up to $100,000 and years of imprisonment depending on the level of cruelty. Where other states are surpassing in basic care for all types of animals, Alabama has only recently succeeded in establishing dogfighting incarceration — the federal penalties are not high.

The most prevalent animal abuse in Alabama is the mistreatment of cats and dogs. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists many instances of animal abuse of both cats and dogs. One of them is animal hoarding. With animal hoarding, an individual houses more than they can care for, and it ultimately leads to improper care of all the animals. In most rural cases, a household that carries more animals leads to more unprotected strays.

However, dogs and cats are not the only ones that face abuse in Alabama. According to ASPCA, in the United States, birds are slaughtered 10 times more than any other animal. Chickens are raised and killed for their meat at a rate of 8.5 billion a year, and another 300 million are used to repetitively produce eggs for human profit.  Of those 8.5 billion, 1 billion are from Alabama.

 

 

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Most birds that have a popular meat are excluded from federal protection and are left to the states’ jurisdiction— which very few actually establish laws pertaining to bird care.

A previous farm owner in Tuscaloosa, Jody Evans, describes her adoption of a rooster that was in bad health and the effect it had on his life. “It was gray and it was dull and he was just, you know, there,” she said. “And when we had first got him, it was as though he was depressed. It was as though he was, like, I’m just gonna die. And then he was put into his environment that he was supposed to be in which was one of free-ranging and having several hens.  The main thing is just seeing how much the environment impacts the quality of life of this rooster.

“The main thing is just seeing how much the environment impacts the quality of life of this rooster.”

However, despite the country’s great interest in bird and other livestock meats, some sources of meat production, mostly factory farms, are not taking great care of their animals. These animals often suffer from overcrowding and cage confinement.

“The most common thing we see is… starvation,” Tuscaloosa County Animal control worker Martha Hocutt said. “We’ve seen some that have died and not been properly buried.”

The ASPCA states that the animal-to-farm ratio has increased within the past 60 years. With that increase, less animals are being cared for individually. With individualized care of livestock and the health of each animal monitored, a better quality of food is ensured.

Caleb Ellis owns a private farm in Tuscaloosa and individually cares for 45 cows and 50 goats.

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A baby cow relaxes in the sun on the Ellis farm. An average cow requires 75-100 sq. feet to roam, so the Ellis’s 50-acre farm is perfectly suitable for their 45 cows.

His 50-acre pastures, wide and green with a central stable for a portion of his cows to take shelter in, provide plenty of room for the animals to roam and connect with their preferred individuals.

Ellis provides a proper home for his cows, as opposed to many company feedlots, where cows are overcrowded and surrounded by their own manure. These cows are subject to branding, castrating, and horn removal, with no attempt at numbing pain.

The ASPCA has made it their mission to end abuse of all types of animals around the country. They say that if consumers were to witness the conditions that the majority of 10 billion farm animals go through, they would not consume them. For this reason, a faster-growing percentage of the population is not only promoting stronger animal protections but switching to a no-meat or no-animal product diet.

“[ASPCA] said that if consumers were to witness the conditions that the majority of 10 billion farm animals go through, they would not consume them.”

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If you witness or suspect a case of animal abuse in the Tuscaloosa area, please contact Animal Control at 205-248-5840.