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Friday, November 22, 2013

Has Dog Bullying Gone Too Far?

It started over a decade ago when Will Ferrell, comedian and actor on Saturday Night Live, created a commercial that promoted dog bullying.  Though it was initially intended as a joke, the movement has caught fire in recent years.  Dogs are the subject of more ridicule than they have ever been, and even the most amateur bully-cum-photographers are taking jabs at their own pets in an effort to hop on the bandwagon.  Images like the one featured above are all but commonplace today as sites like Dog ShamingDog-Shame, and the Dog Shaming Tumblr site exist purely to bully the animals we claim to love.  And it doesn't stop there.  Countless lists have popped up online as well, culling the "best of" dog shaming and putting it in one convenient place so that even the most passive bullies can fuel their hate.  All this content has many folks wondering if dog bullying has gone too far.

In order to better understand the motivation behind dog bullying, we reached out to the Los Angeles chapter of the ASPCA for more information.  The ASPCA was created in 1866 to help rescue pets from abusive situations and rehabilitate them so they can reenter the world as functioning members of society.  Seeing-eye, police, fire, and bomb sniffing are just a few of the careers rehabilitated dogs can pursue to integrate themselves back into the world once they have completed their ASPCA training.  But as the dog population rises those jobs have become more competitive over the years.  Today more and more dogs are simply being adopted by families so that they can live out their years in plain fashion: loosely protecting a single-family home from mailmen, garbage men and other dogs.  So then why are they being bullied?

It stems from the fact that the dog has lost their sense of purpose. They get bored.  Their families (the ASPCA does not like the term "owners" for obvious liberal-guilt related reasons) leave them home alone all day and then are shocked to find things in disarray when they return.  So they bully them under the auspices that it will help curb that behavior.  But that's no way to get results.  

"If a child was treated this way, you can bet Oprah would have done something about it by now.  But because it's a dog, most people tend to look the other way," commented ASPCA president Melanie Starflower from her dog ranch in Topanga Canyon.  "But dogs can't speak up for themselves.  They can only make that sad face they make.  You know the one.  It's so fucking manipulative.  And really that doesn't even work on people until you play some Sarah McLachlan music over it anyway.  Plain and simple: bullying requires a group mentality.  In this case it's a different species that's the bully.  And though there is normally one leader, or alpha bully, they tend to sway the opinions of those around them until eventually everyone is bullying.  And then we're right back where we started with less people on our side."

Many of these so-called "angels" who take these dogs into their homes to provide them with a better life end up doing just the opposite.  They shame their animals for not behaving like humans, a notion that seems quite absurd if you break it down.  They chastise them for actions they have little control over, their "animal instincts" as it were, then make them the subject of public displays of bullying. Now with the advent of technology bullies are able to document and share their bullying over social media more easily than ever, sometimes garnering the attention of millions of people in the process.  It's a disturbing trend.  One that needs to stop before things go any further.

"I mean, what's next?  You know?" Melanie wondered.  "Some sort of dog internment camps where bad behavior is 'trained' out of them? Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?  Training a dog to not pee in your house or eat your shoes?  Why don't we just domesticate the elephant while we're at it?  Then we can teach spiders to drive cars and invite hammerhead sharks over for Thanksgiving dinner."

Though she flew off course quickly, Starflower has a point: we live in a progressive world today where behavior like this should not be allowed to flourish as it has.  So if you or anyone you know is a dog bully, direct them to the ASPCA commercial with all the sadness in it* and help them change their ways.  Life doesn't have to be so ruff for these loving creatures.  Together we can build a better world. 

*Literally any ASPCA commercial.