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  1. #1

    Default Do the elderly or physically incapacitated get a free pass on animal neglect?

    What sparked the question was this news story:

    Dogs Left Caged For Nearly 4 Years

    The New Hampshire Humane Society said a woman in Plymouth who was unable to care for her dogs left them caged nearly all day long for at least the last four years.

    Police confiscated the dogs late last month but did not charge their owner, who police said is elderly and suffers from a medical condition.
    One dog spent so much time caged up over the last few years that he still has a hard time standing up.

    "He's the dog that really tears at my heartstrings the most," said Marylee Gorham, of the New Hampshire Humane Society.

    The 17-year-old Jack Russell terrier is named Napoleon.

    "Over time, he has just become very crouched up and arthritic, to the point now if you see him standing, which is very difficult for him, he can't stand straight. He's kind of all crouched up and obviously in pain," Gorham said.
    The shelter supervisor said that when the dogs came in, one named Buttercup was the most under-socialized.

    "When you'd go in her kennel, she wouldn't go near you. We couldn't get her out of the kennel. She was afraid of the leash itself, and so we would just sit in there with her day in and day out," said animal care supervisor Gina Carita.
    The details of the owner here aren't clear. They say the woman is elderly, but not how old. They also say that she has a "medical condition," which is so vague as to mean almost anything. But this isn't the first story I've seen of this nature and probably will not be the last. (Although I cannot recall the details now, I saw a neglect case involving a small child living with a grandparent described with similar vague circumstances some time ago.)

    I have a lot of compassion for those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia as their mental faculties are clearly not capable of comprehending and addressing their own needs, let alone anyone else's. But I'm seeing stories like this pop up, criminal scenarios involving older people who are suffering from age-related illnesses that are not mentally-deleterious (or aren't clarified), but they're getting a pass nonetheless. I believe the reasons are varied in nature (some fair, some not), but I want to know the opinions of others.

    I also know that this can be closely related to animal hoarding and hoarding in general, which are considered mental illnesses and require treatment --however, typically the infirm are still held responsible for the clean up and follow-through.

    What do you think constitues a fair pass in cases like this? Do you think being "of a certain age" or "physically limited" allows people to get away with things, fairly or unfairly? Why/why not?

    Thanks for your thoughts in advance.
    Last edited by iwakar; 05-15-2012 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Editing title for clarity
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
    my floof is luxury Wind Up Rex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    What do you think constitues a fair pass in cases like this? Do you think being "of a certain age" or "physically limited" allows people to get away with things, fairly or unfairly? Why/why not?
    Interesting thread.

    I think there are a couple of factors to consider. For the neglected party, the most important thing is to get them out of their situation, and to get them the care that they need to recover. I think that punitive measures against those responsible for neglect have to meet two critical thresholds: a) they must be immediately relieved of responsibility for the neglected party, and b) they are prevented from doing it in the future. The elderly are no exception to this. In fact, I would add that in their case it should be evaluated as to whether they are a danger to themselves in addition to the initial two criteria.

    In my mind, the question becomes tricky when considering how b) should be managed. (Note: I'm assuming because we're talking about the elderly or otherwise impaired individuals we're discussing "benign" neglect as opposed to violent abuse.) I think that should be done through case-by-case assessment. How impaired is the individual? Do they have any prior history of abuse or neglect? These considerations should play a greater role in determining the consequence for the party responsible for neglect than simply age alone. What is paramount is that the person responsible for neglect is no longer able to do further harm. I think whatever measures are necessary should be taken to ensure that that happens.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wind-Up Rex View Post
    Interesting thread.

    I think there are a couple of factors to consider. For the neglected party, the most important thing is to get them out of their situation, and to get them the care that they need to recover. I think that punitive measures against those responsible for neglect have to meet two critical thresholds: a) they must be immediately relieved of responsibility for the neglected party, and b) they are prevented from doing it in the future. The elderly are no exception to this. In fact, I would add that in their case it should be evaluated as to whether they are a danger to themselves in addition to the initial two criteria.

    In my mind, the question becomes tricky when considering how b) should be managed. (Note: I'm assuming because we're talking about the elderly or otherwise impaired individuals we're discussing "benign" neglect as opposed to violent abuse.) I think that should be done through case-by-case assessment. How impaired is the individual? Do they have any prior history of abuse or neglect? These considerations should play a greater role in determining the consequence for the party responsible for neglect than simply age alone. What is paramount is that the person responsible for neglect is no longer able to do further harm. I think whatever measures are necessary should be taken to ensure that that happens.
    You bring up great points and I agree that violent abuse versus "benign" neglect deserves a distinction. Intent is always relevant, even if it's hard to police. I also think these scenarios force us as a society to reevaluate the purpose of criminal charges/incarceration. I know that the result of prosecution in cases like these often does result in the individuals being banned from owning pets in that county, city, or state etc. which seems very reasonable to me, even if penalties or jailtime have been waived. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case and I see nothing from preventing this tragedy from being repeated unless the elderly woman has seen the error of her ways. It seems like a lot of faith on the part of law enforcement and the community for someone who hasn't given them grounds for it.

    I also worry about the precedent that has been established and repeated.

    As a personal anecdote, my elderly stepgrandfather is really getting up there in years and he loves animals and has owned/cared for all kinds since he was a boy. But in the past few years, his health has started to decline. Not only is he getting physically infirm, but he's getting "dotty." He's losing track of things and forgetting things. Realizing this, without anyone else's suggestion, he decided to sell or give away most of his cherished horses and his prize steers. Emotionally, it was hard, but he knew it was best for the animals. He's not 100% upstairs, but he still knows right from wrong and his own limitations regarding animal care.

    It bothers me that there is no (dis)incentive or distinction for people that choose to do the right or wrong thing because they've reached "a certain age" and are somehow morally irrelevant, even if they're mentally functioning at a reasonable level.

    Since few see the point or benefit of throwing grandparents into the clink, I wonder if rather than jail-time, a few mandatory therapy sessions with someone specializing in animal hoarding or something would be a good and cost-efficient alternative in cases that apply? I don't know the numbers, but it sounds like a good idea to me.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  4. #4
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    no... those who are physically incapable of caring for a pet (or child or whatever it may be) are negligent in deciding to obtain one in the first place... if you can't take care of it, don't get one... there's no excuse for making something else suffer just because you think that it's cute
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    I dont think that they should and in the UK they dont, either the NGOs or statutory services will pick up on it, rescue the pets, children, dependents and those responsible will run the risk of being criminally prosecuted.

    I was thinking about how to frame a thread on this topic actually, if you are a serious libertarian and opposed to the availability of all tax funded services and benefits spending you've got to accept that criminal neglect and abuse, of animals, children, other dependents, is going to happen and there is going to be no response other than what do gooders from churches or neighbours can muster.

    Even if it is discovered and challenged there is the plausible excuse that people will plead they have no means and no support, at least presently, through the availability of benefits and services they can not do so.

    See those are the sorts of real world questions which the dregs of antiquated cold war ideology which makes up pop-capitalism are not prepared to consider.

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