In a recent letter (Deseret News, Aug. 8), Jayson Orvis asserted that concerned citizens may be overreacting to the death two months ago of "Daug," a 13-month-old Rottweiler, at the hands of his owner. Mr. Orvis also in his letter criticized the fact that last year he was investigated by the Humane Society of Utah because neighbors had complained of the methods he was using to "boundary train" his own dog, who was subsequently killed by a car and who, according to Mr. Orvis, died because his training was discontinued.
With regard to Mr. Orvis' charges of public "overreaction," cruelty to animals in any form should never be treated lightly. Research has shown that serious animal abuse is not just a personality flaw in random individuals but is a classic symptom of severe psychological problems. Studies have further shown that persons who abuse animals are also highly likely to abuse a child or beat a spouse. The underlying issue is always the same: power and preying on the vulnerable. Most brutal mass murderers got their early "practice" on animals.In the upcoming session of the Utah Legislature, Rep. Frank R. Pignanelli will again introduce a bill that will change cruelty to animals from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. (Six other states have already made this crime a felony.) The current laws make punishments for animal cruelty merely inconveniences, not deterrents, and often prosecutors don't feel it's worth their time to pursue cases of animal abuse.
Regarding the Humane Society of Utah's investigation of Jayson Orvis, we were contacted by residents of his neighborhood who claimed that they had repeatedly witnessed him beating and kicking his dog. Any time the society receives a complaint from persons who are willing to identify themselves, it is thoroughly investigated. In this case, we recommended that Mr. Orvis change his training methods, since most reputable dog trainers (regardless of the actions urged by the book Mr. Orvis chose to use) advocate positive reinforcement as a more-effective means of teaching a dog than punishment. For Mr. Orvis to claim that his dog was killed by a car because he stopped using his particular method of training is as irrelevant as saying that children who aren't beaten for going into the street deserve to be run over. Has this man never heard of fences? Dogs should not be allowed the opportunity to run loose under any circumstances.
Each year, the Humane Society of Utah investigates more than 1,000 reports of cruelty to animals and will continue to do so in the future. It is our fervent hope that the Utah Legislature will finally make it possible for our investigations to bear some fruit in seeing that animal abusers receive punishments sufficient to make them, and the rest of the community, take such actions seriously.
Executive director, Humane Society of Utah