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Community must protect those in need

As a single woman I gauged a man’s worth based heavily on how he interacted with children.

In my opinion — then and now — a man who doesn’t show love, compassion and a good sense of humor to a child isn’t worth marrying.

A similar measuring stick should be applied to the way men — and women — treat animals.

Cats and dogs are defenseless against humans and deserve to be treated with care. And an occasional “accident” on the living room floor requires an easy-going owner who doesn’t take life too seriously.

But we all know the world isn’t perfect.

Two notes on my desk right now tell that painful story.

One Natchez man called me a few weeks ago to share his concerns about a neighbor.

Neighborhood cats were turning up injured, even shot. One neighbor feared for the life of his dog.

The authorities were contacted, but without any solid proof, not much could be done.

Then last week Charlotte Nettles and her husband shared the story of their Shih Tzu, who veterinarians say had been poisoned with antifreeze.

The doctors suspect someone soaked something edible in the deadly substance and then fed it to the dog.

When I first talked with the Nettles family the dog was fighting for his life in a local veterinarian’s office. He was treated and later released back to the family, but with severe damage to his kidneys and eyes.

These stories follow a string of heart breakers our community has faced in the last six years.

A pit bull was tied to a tree, doused in gasoline and burned alive.

A cat, later named Sox by its savior, was shot in the leg and left to hobble along alone.

A Chihuahua-mix puppy was locked in a pet carrier and thrown in a Dumpster, alive.

Another dog, named Miracle by the vet’s office that treated her, was found tied to a tree with skin and muscle tissue growing through the heavy chain around the dog’s neck. A five-pound lead pipe casing dangled between the front paws of the Labrador-mix when she was found.

The graphic stories don’t end there, unfortunately.

Using my measuring stick, some members of our community don’t score so well.

As Mrs. Nettles said in a letter to the editor, animal cruelty is a scary thing.

“If this person could harm an animal, could he do something horrible to a small child or an adult?” she asked.

The answer to that question, based on psychological studies, crime reports and law enforcement know-how is often, “yes.”

Not everyone in our community is, well, worth marrying. Some people are downright vile.

But many of the dogs and cats that suffered the most found love and compassion at the end.

Perhaps in response to the great need, our community is also filled with great animal activists and protectors.

Fundraising totals for a new humane society shelter, now nearing $750,000, prove that many in the area do have quite the heart for animals.

But to all those who have helped, anyone who has donated, rescued or adopted a pet, the need around us is still great.

Our community must toe a hard line when it comes to animal cruelty. Stories like the one the Nettles family now tells won’t end without a willingness from all of us to stand up for what is right, report suspected crimes, admonish those doing wrong and protect those who can’t protect themselves.

And when it comes to those things, I know the Miss-Lou will measure up.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.