Teach Your Children
And walk the good road to the Day of Quiet.
—segment of a Sioux prayer
We have a situation in our area that is simply horrific. Eight to eleven teen-aged boys have been bashing in the heads of porcupines with clubs (2,3). These animals are not disturbing anyone; they are peacefully foraging along the roadsides. Decent people are sickened by this. Wildlife proponents are working with law enforcement to try to find a way to prosecute. The perpetrators are known — in fact, rumor has it that they’ve been bragging about their deeds. The local sheriffs in two adjoining counties are frustrated because, technically, porcupines are considered a “nuisance species” and they are not sure what laws may be called into play to stop these atrocities. Recently, research into animal cruelty laws has provided information that may potentially allow law officers to press charges. Many of us are hoping they are able to do so swiftly, before more such heinous acts are committed.
I honestly don’t understand why porcupines are considered nuisance animals to start with. They are the most benign of creatures, never giving offense. Despite tall tales that have been handed down through generations, they do not throw their quills or aggressively attack pet dogs. The dog that winds up with a front end full of barbs is sure to be the aggressor. The porcupine has a passive defense system — all he can do when scared is turn his back and make his “hair” stand on end. He will then make his ambling escape after his attacker receives a painful surprise.
It is well-established fact that most serial killers and many violent criminals began their evil acts by abusing animals (1). Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo (the “Boston strangler”), and David Berkowitz (the “Son of Sam”) all admit to having tortured animals when young. What does this say about a handful of teens who have been getting their kicks by clubbing passive, gentle animals to death?
And what does it say about their parents?
We all know that kids can be pack animals, and it’s likely that some of these boys are simply following along because the ring leaders think it’s cool. Kids have been doing stupid things “because their friends do it” for as long as there have been kids. However, an act like this is not in the same league as smoking a cigarette or drinking a few beers (not that I condone either). We are talking about horrible acts of cruelty, dealing out death to innocent victims in a extremely violent manner.
I cannot imagine why any child would even remotely think that this is okay, unless there is something psychotically wrong with that child. The thought that there are a possible dozen of these kids out there doing the same thing is not just disturbing, it’s terrifying.
Under normal circumstances, children are taught compassion by their elders. They are taught respect for others. They are taught that it is not okay to get your jollies by harming another being. It’s not okay to take whatever you want, whether it is possessions, money, or to steal an adrenalin rush, if it means causing harm.
Who is teaching these children? Or is it that no one is teaching them? Are mom and dad just to busy to even know their child? Has this cruel indifference to life been passed down from father to son? Or are these parents as shocked and mortified by the acts of their offspring as the rest of us are?
What do you teach your children about animals? Do you hold their little hands when small, and show them how to gently stroke? Do you teach them that animals are not toys? That picking up the kitty and squeezing it scares it? That the hamster is a tiny soul who can be badly injured if handled roughly? That the dog’s food belongs to the dog, and he needs to be respected when he eats? That the cat should not be pestered when she’s trying to take a nap?
Little things like this, which seem like such minor acts, are those lessons which seed the soul of kindness.
What seed was sown in the mind of a child who bashes in the heads of porcupines with a club?
(1) Psychology Today: Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?
(2) A Porcupine’s Right To Live (Albany Times Union)
(3) Sheriff: Porcupines Being “Clubbed” In The Capital Region (News 10 ABC)
Photo license: Creative Commons
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on aberrant psychology, law enforcement, or parenting. I’m just a mom, a wildlife rehabilitator, and a resident of a community which has watched this story unfold in horror.
News and Updates:
Please take a look at my Important Info Page for the changes that have taken place as of January 1st. My rates have gone up to $45 for the base rate, and there are some minor changes in the way billing will be handled, etc. It’s all spelled out on the website, for your convenience.
Note from Gayle:
I do realize that I have terribly neglected Creature Thoughts, the website, etc. To say that my life has not been the same since last August would be an understatement. The struggle to get my emotional feet back under me has been continual, and perhaps not very successful. I have said before that I will try to be more consistent, and will say so again here. The keyword, of course, is “try”. Please accept my sincere apologies.