As the major media outlets have been focused on the Olympics, the latest political news, and the traumatic shooting in Aurora, CO, a tragedy in upstate New York seemed to slip by us virtually unnoticed this past week.
According to the New York Daily News, one of the few news sites that did notice the tragedy, an 11-year old girl was arrested for senselessly beating her foster parent’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy to death.
According to the news report, the girl’s actions were surprisingly callous and provoked simply by being told “no” by her foster parent. The implication was that the child’s superficial needs being thwarted prompted the attack.
We know virtually nothing about the girl, other than the fact that she was in foster care, and that her placement in the home where the tragedy took place was temporary.
Knowing that the girl was in foster care, we can surmise that she had encountered some sort of turbulence in her young life, but we can only speculate on what experiences may have led up to her horrible actions against an innocent creature.
We do know this, however. Children are not born with malice. It is put in them.
When children harm animals, it is likely that they have been harmed themselves. Their actions are typically the only way they know how to release the pain and psychological torment that has interrupted their experience of childhood.
Although the girl’s actions resulted from a seemingly superficial disappointment, I feel confident in guessing that there was much more to it than that.
The tragedy here is that many lives have been deeply hurt by the girl’s actions. The puppy lost its life, and the foster parent’s family lost a treasured pet. The girl now is not only a likely victim herself, she is a perpetrator, leaving her with legal consequences and deeper psychological trauma.
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” -Anthropologist Margaret Mead
We cannot, and should not let this girl escape consequences for her actions. Yet consequences alone will not be sufficient treatment for her. She needs a combination of specialized trauma therapy, close supervision and monitoring, education regarding effective problem-solving, and unconditional support.
Will she get it?
I have my doubts. Our system of care for troubled youth is underfunded and not well-designed. Sadly, it often fails. Even if this girl does get the right mix of services, there are so many others who need it and will not get it.
That is why it is so important to watch for signs of trouble before it reaches this level of tragic outcome. We need to be aware that children in troubled situations need help, and they often show signs of their distress well before it gets this bad.
What can you do?
- Report known or suspected incidents of child abuse to authorities IMMEDIATELY. Failing to report because you do not want to get involved is a tragedy in and of itself.
- Be alert to the behaviors of children and adolescents with whom you are regularly in contact, and report incidents of aggressive behavior towards animals to caregivers or authorities.
- Combine efforts to rescue animals with advocacy for children. If you have rescued an animal from a bad situation, see if any children may be in that same bad situation.
- Volunteer as a mentor for children with Big Brother’s Big Sisters or other mentoring groups and involve youth in compassionate programming for animals.
- Check out our Resource Page to learn more.
- Spread the message of Okey’s Promise so that others will be aware to watch for signs of animals and children in need.
Actual intervention and involvement with children is so needed in our communities. Combining that intervention and involvement with animal causes is a win-win on many levels.
Advocacy is important too. We can all spread the word.
Will you help us do that?
Learn about how you can get involved with the latest Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause project!