I am not an art expert, but I must ask why we need a live skinny dog with a pink leg, bees, ants, and hermitage crabs put into an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)? Is it art? Is it to attract customers? Is it entertainment? Is is ethical? I need not spell out the stress factors involved for a dog, roaming an exhibit, surrounded by crowds taking photos, making noise and trying to reach for him.
For now, the exhibit is closed as the matter is under investigation by spcaLA and the Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services. It may very well reopen once in compliance with local requirements, which again raises the question - just because we can use animals this way - should we?
I think not. The power to exploit members of a vulnerable class must include the courage to not do so, and a refusal to encourage those who do.
Many veterans can benefit from a bona fide service dog to assist with head injury issues, and all can be helped by the therapeutic healing powers of a family pet. Unfortunately, the difficulties encountered by veterans in getting treatment for, or even recognition of their injuries, such as PTSD, have become insurmountable as we learn more each day about the ineptness of the Veterans Administration.
As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I grew up hearing of the indignities and injustices delivered to our troops instead of the support they deserve. My father served in the Air Force on a bomber crew. His plane was shot down and they landed behind enemy lines. They miraculously reached the allied forces wounded, hungry, scared and happy to be alive. While waiting for medical attention, they were greeted by the Red Cross who offered the boys coffee and doughnuts for a charge. Yes - for money. Of course, they refused the refreshments and continue to hold a grudge against the Red Cross to this day. Upon his return stateside, my father was hailed as a hero and labeled a member of the great generation but immediately encountered the difficulties and dangers of being "helped" by the VA. One could survive getting shot out of a plane but die waiting for a doctor. Suffice it to say that whenever my father needs medical care -he says - "if I am unconscious, don't take me to the VA."
Why is this important today? spcaLA opened 135 years ago protecting the vulnerable in our society. Women, children and pets - were all considered property, and were all bullied by those in power. Our veterans, some who are as young as 18, are over-driven (3 tours of duty), exploited and discarded and are returning home injured, traumatized, suicidal and vulnerable. They are not treated as employable or useful but rather left to be homeless, exploited by lending companies and ignored at epidemic proportions.
This must not stand. I have spoken against military dogs being treated like equipment, being denied veterinary care and being left behind when their service is over. Today, I am imploring those with the doughnuts and the power to not do the same with our veterans. It is cruel and inhumane.
spcaLA will continue to do what we can to provide solace and comfort to our veterans with our dogs. We will continue our work with other military groups to pair veterans in need with service dogs. And we will continue to speak out on behalf of the vulnerable.