In the state of Virginia and in the county of Rockingham chaining up a cat permanently outside is not a crime. Therefore, in does not fall under one of the headings of animal cruelty under the laws of either Rockingham County or the state of Virginia.
Do you think that this is correct? I don’t think it’s correct because I think permanently chaining up a cat (tethering a cat) is a form of animal cruelty because it doesn’t matter what animal you chain up, be it a monkey or a dog, if you do it permanently you are being cruel to that animal because it restricts in a very severe manner the natural behaviour of the animal. This is very likely to result in mental health issues. Surely this is common sense. To believe otherwise is backward thinking.
Despite the fact that many animal advocates and users of Facebook agree with me, the sheriff of Rockingham County disagrees that it is cruel. He says that he has received many complaints about the chained up cats on the property of a woman, Shirley Smallwood (living near Elkton), but when he goes to investigate with the SPCA they find that the cats are healthy, well fed and up-to-date on their vaccinations. Accordingly, the sheriff states that Shirley Smallwood is not being cruel to her cats because there is no specific Virginia law regarding tethered cats.
I’m sure that there is no specific Virginia law regarding tethered cats because there will be no specific law regarding tethered cats anywhere in the USA. This is because no one does it except for Smallwood. However, there will be general animal welfare laws regarding cruelty to animals and tethering cats permanently is in my opinion a form of cruelty to animals. I wonder why the sheriff did not consider placing the behaviour of Shirley Smallwood under the general animal welfare laws of his state?
The Smallwood family have seven cats. At one time there were 27. Smallwood says that she has tried to take the cats inside but they refused to cooperate and therefore they remain outside and in order to keep them safe she chained them up. Smallwood says that she’s been threatened on Facebook and that people are being nasty to her. She wants to stop people being nasty to her and to stop picking on her. The is an easy answer to that: treat your cats is a less cruel manner.
She said that she feeds them properly and they all have names et cetera. In other words, she treats them properly except for one critical factor: she restricts in the most heavy-handed way their natural movements and behaviour. In the UK there is a law, the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which states that a cat owners should ensure that their cat is allowed to behave naturally and express natural desires and instincts. Tethering animals permanently would be in breach of that act in my opinion. Therefore, in the UK, Smallwood would be prosecuted.
I do not think that the sheriff (Bryan Hutcheson) is being broadminded enough. I don’t think that he is being sensible enough I don’t think he is interpreting the law widely enough or properly. I believe that we simply have to apply some common sense in this instance. And, in my opinion, common sense dictates that this is a form of animal cruelty. The problem is that although these cats are fed and vaccinated et cetera, nobody is looking into the mental health of the cats. Nobody is asking how the cats might feel when heavily restricted in their movements. People need to be enlightened enough to get into the heads of cats or indeed any animal who is tethered like this and ask whether they believe the cat is going to develop emotional problems under these extreme circumstances. The answer is likely to be yes.
Perhaps the problem is that the law is behind modern knowledge about cats. We know that cats have emotions and feelings. Tethering cats permanently ignores this aspect of cat anatomy and so apparently does the animal welfare law of Virginia.
What do you think?
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Source: WHSV.com and Elisa Black-Taylor on Examiner.com