Pembina Valley Humane Society intake/adoption co-ordinator Erin Ginter with Chili, a young basset hound mix who was found with a gunshot wound to his neck just a few weeks ago. Chili is the latest in a long line of regional animal abuse and abandonment cases the humane society deals with on a regular basis. Photo by Ashleigh Viveiros/Winkler Times.
By Ashleigh Viveiros
You wouldn't know it to look at him, but two weeks ago, Chili was a dog in dire straights.
The year-old basset hound mix was found bleeding and in pain in a Hochfeld area backyard earlier this month.
He'd been shot straight through the neck and left to fend for himself; he eventually managed to make his way into the yard of a homeowner who phoned the Pembina Valley Humane Society for help.
"Fortunately, he was okay - it was a fresh enough wound that no infection had set in," said PVHS intake/adoption co-ordinator Erin Ginter. "Still, the fact that the bullet didn't hit anything important ... he's our miracle dog."
Fastforward to today and the friendly pup is on the mend - both from the gunshot wound and the spaying/neutering operation all humane society animals undergo when they're brought in - in an area foster home, as he awaits more compassionate owners to take him home for good.
To be fair, the PVHS isn't sure whether Chili was shot by uncaring owners (who have yet to claim him, in any case) or an angry area resident fed up with having stray dogs on their yard.
But it doesn't really matter - someone still made the decision pull the trigger in yet another case of animal cruelty in the region, said Ginter.
It's not something most people are even aware of, but animal abuse abounds in the Pembina Valley.
"We want people to know that this is happening everywhere and it's probably happening so much more than we see," said Ginter. "It's awful and we need to do something about it."
The humane society is frequently picking up abandoned cats and dogs and, even worse, abused animals, Ginter said.
"We pick up quite a few from the Osterwick-Hochfeld area," she observed, noting rural areas have the highest rates of animal abuse cases, though there are certainly plenty of animals found abandoned around the towns, as well.
One recent case really had society volunteers shaking their heads in disgust: a Golden Retriever was found out by Horndean with baler twine wrapped around her.
The twine was attached to a milk jug filled with rocks, which was obviously meant to scare the dog, Ginter said.
When the owners came forward to claim the dog, the RCMP investigated to ensure they weren't the ones harming the animal, she said.
"They turned out to be okay," Ginter said, noting, however, that whoever attacked the dog will likely never be found or charged.
For Ginter, who has been working as the society's intake co-ordinator since last summer, these and other stories really make her wonder at the capacity some humans have for cruelty.
"Every single time it's just as shocking as the last time," she said. "To even think about the fact that people would do something like that ... shocked and disgusted are really the best words for it."
The problem stems, in large part, from owners who can't be bothered to get their pets fixed, Ginter said.
"It all originates with overpopulation, not spaying and neutering their animals," she said. "Then you have all these animals that nobody wants."
If people would just take responsibility for their pets, a lot of the problems the humane society sees would disappear, Ginter said.
For one, fixed (and, you could argue, properly trained) farm dogs would be far less likely to wander onto neighbouring yards, which would reduce the number of retaliatory abuse incidents the society sees, she said.
And fixed dogs and cats would obviously not lead to unwanted litters being tossed onto the side of the road, Ginter said.
PLENTY OF OPTIONS
Aside from trying to convince pet owners to do the right thing when it comes to sterilizing their pets, the PVHS also wants potential pet abusers to know they do have options that don't include murdering or hurting defenseless animals.
If you can't care for your pet any longer, just bring them into the humane society - they will find a good home for them, Ginter said.
"That's pretty much what we're here for," she said. "Call the pound, call the humane society."
"A lot of times, I think a lot of people just don't know about these services," Ginter added. "But if you can't care for your animal, you need to take responsibility and come to us with it."
While the humane society does ask for a small drop-off fee to help cover the costs of housing animals, they are willing to work on a case-by-case basis.
"If someone can't afford it, we do help them out," Ginter said, noting they'd rather take a hit on the surrender fee than see an animal harmed.
For homeowners frustrated with strays wandering onto their yards, Ginter implores them to call the animal control officer or bring the animal into the pound rather than pulling out their shotguns.
"Really, there are so many options for them that they shouldn't even need to consider doing that," she said.