Stories about animal cruelty are distressing and upsetting to anyone who cares about four legged creatures, great and small. One particularly disturbing incident, recently featured in the news, concerns a man who allegedly poisoned his girlfriend’s cat…yes, poisoned…deliberately. According to Newsweek, a 45 year old Florida Man, Frank Jesse, was arrested by Seminole County police and charged with animal cruelty and domestic battery and can receive up to five years in prison if convicted of the charges.
The evidence, in this case, according to Seminole County Police, is Frank Jesse’s cell phone. According to the story, a fight ensued when Frank Jesse came home after a bout of drinking and had an argument with an unnamed woman, who was his girlfriend. Mr. Jesse then passed out drunk. The girlfriend suspected he was up to something. Her cat was walking in circles and displayed dilatated pupils, symptoms of a drug reaction. She checked his cell phone and found a text he sent to a friend saying he was going to drug her cat. There was also evidence of him doing a web search on pet poisons. That is when she called 911 and Jesse was subsequently arrested. The cat received medical attention at a veterinarian’s office, and it was learned that the cat tested positive for amphetamines, which caused the animal great pain and distress. If these events prove to be true, and Frank Jesse did deliberately plan and do this despicable deed, one must wonder how someone could do such an egregious act, particularly to a pet belonging to someone with whom they are in a relationship!
While we cringe at such horrendous happenings, these types of stories can raise awareness on two fronts.
The first is that when you are a pet parent, one must take exceptional care concerning whom one brings into their heart and home. Like the family with a human child, a pet is a dependent, relying on those in their family or “pack” to provide physical and emotional support. Picking an unsavory or disturbed person to date can put humans and pets at risk. Pets can’t speak up if they are being mistreated by someone, they cannot advocate for themselves. Although some pets are a “one person” animal and don’t take kindly to visitors or roommates, it’s important to be aware of any signs of hostility or neglect toward family pets. Many say that dogs and cats have a “sixth sense” about people and if an animal who usually warms to strangers is cringing, or displaying uncharacteristic aggression toward someone new, it may be a sign. Also, if a new person sees the pet as an annoyance or prefers it not to be around (except in the case of trauma from a previous animal attack or allergies) this is not a person to date or have around your pet in any capacity.
Animal abusers don’t come with a warning. They can be quite charming. It is up to the pet parent to “suss out” a person’s character before exposing two legged or four-legged family members to someone new. This seems like common sense, but first impressions can be deceiving. Inviting someone into the home, especially when the only adult in the home, is a huge responsibility. Before bringing home a date, hiring a babysitter/pet sitter, or moving in a roommate, some people nowadays are doing criminal background checks on strangers. Decades ago, this would seem excessive, but now it is common practice. Even with a background check someone might slip through the cracks if they have not had a former conviction. Talk to mutual friends, get to know their family if possible, and most of all, use eyes and ears as well as pay attention to “gut feelings”.
The takeaway from this sad situation is to be aware of substances that can cause accidental poisoning. Yes, it’s common knowledge that chocolate can be fatal for dogs, and the good, dark chocolate that we enjoy as it’s full of antioxidants is particularly harmful for pets, even in minute amounts. Other foods like onions and grapes can also cause major distress. Many pet owners like to give share a bit of their plate with their animals. This is a kind thought but not a safe one. The ASPCA has compiled a list of “people food” that can be harmful to pets, visit ASPCA as well as poisonous plants. Popular Gift Plants such as lilies and poinsettias, traditionally given around Easter and Christmas, can be fatal to animals.
Homeowners have control over plants and chemicals used in the backyard; however, apartment and condo dwellers particularly need to exercise due diligence when walking a dog or letting a cat roam in a common grassy area or taking them to a park. Some condo associations and communities have rules about what can and cannot be used in common areas shared by residents, but many do not. Weed killer and insecticides used to maintain property can be fatal if ingested. Dogs when they have an upset tummy love to sample some grass or even chew on weeds. This often has the opposite effect if they are ingesting something made to kills something else. Take for instance, topical flea and tick killer. Cats and dogs often try to turn around a lick it off as soon as it’s applied. That is why most flea spot treatment products say to apply in between the shoulder blades…they can’t get to that are with their tongue.
If a stranger offers to give your animal a “treat”, say thank you and politely pocket the treat “for later” and then discreetly discard it safely. It seems unfriendly to be so suspicious, but if you don’t know the person giving the treat, and you don’t even know where it came from, err on the side of caution. A neighbor who is disturbed by barking or meowing might just throw a little harmful something over the fence with malintent. It’s happened. It’s a weird world out there and aggression against pets, although nothing new, is still happening all the time.
Conversely, it could be a well-intentioned neighbor who isn’t up on what’s good or bad for pets. For instance, a soup bone seems like a nice nosh for a good doggy, but bones splinter and can kill. Watch what goes on when your dog is outside and nicely and tactfully educate your neighbors and friends about what can harm your pet
It all comes down to vigilance. With whom your pet is interacting is important, as the life that’s saved may be their own. Be aware of surroundings and be mindful of substances (or horrible people) that can be harmful to your fur baby.