Compassion In Action

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Scotlund's Blog

Tear Down the Cages

More than two decades ago I realized the common thread in the network of animal cruelty – the cage. The cage represents the imprisonment and mistreatment of the animals of this world. I have focused my career on tearing down these cages in their many forms and uses.

The cage is a fundamentally flawed contraption that causes rapid emotional, social and physical decline of its inhabitants. In my experience any animal confined to a cage goes through three phases of decline; typically starting with high anxiety, leading to depression, and resulting in psychological turmoil. Putting an animal in a cage is a violation of that creature’s innate right to live naturally and without suffering. This type of confinement also forces animals to eat, sleep and defecate in a space often only a few times the size of their body. This causes human and animal health problems and can ultimately lead to death in some species.

I conceptualized and built a revolutionary cageless animal shelter that set global humane standards. I lobbied for the adoption of guardian language to change people’s ideas concerning our relationships with animals. I lead the rescue of tens of thousands of animals from puppy mills, dog and cock fighting, hoarding cases, equine farming and countless other cruel instances of confinement and mistreatment. I have liberated hundreds of thousands of animals from the confines of cages and the grip of manmade cruelty.

Throughout the centuries, humans have used cages to take non-human animals out of their natural habitats and confine them for enjoyment or financial gain. This phenomenon flows through many forms of animal cruelty. Unnatural confinement is central to puppy mills, vivisection, the dog-meat trade in South Korea, zoos, circuses, aquaria, the exotic bird trade, fur farms, and most of the other exploitative industries ARC fights against.

Puppy mills are one of the most obvious incarnations of this imprisonment. Breeding dogs are often confined to small wire cages for their entire lives, forced to live in horrific conditions while producing litter after litter. These dogs are treated more like a cash crop than living beings capable of pain, loneliness and fear. They live in feces-caked enclosures without proper veterinary care and often only feel the touch of a human hand when they are being forced to breed or their puppies are being taken from them. In this miserable existence they become one with their cages – many have never felt solid ground beneath their feet – only the hard grate of their metal enclosures. One of the most disturbing examples of this abuse I have seen was a Pekingese I rescued from a puppy mill in Arkansas. His severely matted hair had grown around the bars of his tiny cage. I actually had to cut him out of that dank prison to free him.

Another nightmarish example of the cage’s cruel impact is vivisection. Animals are held in laboratories across the country and forced to undergo unimaginable suffering in the name of science. These innocent primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, and other animals cower in the corners of their cages as rough gloved hands reach in to inflict torture. Animals in laboratories are commonly dissected, infected, gassed, burned and blinded. I don’t think that we can fully comprehend the terror of such an existence. For these animals every human interaction is filled with confusion and suffering.

The confinement of birds is perhaps the most fundamentally disturbing use of the cage. Birds are gifted with the incredible ability to soar through the air, envied by all other creatures.  Humans, on a whim, fueled by their desire for an exotic, luxurious pet, take these winged creatures from their rainforest and jungle habitats and force them to live in unnatural confines without proper enrichment. An exotic bird who would naturally fly uninhibited through the treetops is forced to live in a cage often only several times his size. This bird, born to be part of an intricate, social flock, is often forced to live in solitary misery. Some species of parrots can live close to 90 years, but inadequate care and constant confinement dramatically decrease the life expectancy of birds kept as pets.  Until humans cease the imprisonment of these regal creatures they will continue to suffer and die behind the bars of their gilt cages.

These are only three of many examples of the cruelty of confinement. But the cage itself  is not the driving force of the cruelty – it is the humans who stand to profit from the suffering. To make a significant positive impact for these victimized animals we must change the mindset of those who profit from their misery. I remain confident that we are in a position to drastically reduce animal suffering. The need to end animal suffering is great everywhere, but the power of compassion is equal to that need.

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24 responses to “Tear Down the Cages”

  1. Pamela Wofford says:

    Thank you so very much for this. While I use crates judiciously at home with my own and foster dogs, constant confinement in shelters creates many behavior issues that almost inevitably lead to death.

    Dogs and cats (and other animals )who exhibit barrier frustration are all too often given the labels “aggressive” or “hyper.” Feeling cornered and terrified , many are mistakenly called “shy” , “fear biters” or just “mean.”

    I applaud your efforts to offer training and assessment services to shelter personnel; hopefully with greater understanding of animal behavior, we will see less of these erroneous labels, and more adoption/rehabilitation.

  2. Sher Lynn says:

    WONDERFUL! WELL DONE!.. Spread the word,, expand the ‘compassion’ ! Absolutely ! Cages are demeaning ..

  3. Thomas Cole says:

    Scotlund, thanks for taking such a clear stance on this vital issue. It is my hope that we can lead the US into a new era of sheltering, one where these facilities are true shelters and just animal prisons.

    I offer this simple cartoon video as a tribute to your years of hard work to free our companion animals from their prison cages =

  4. Sir… I applaud you… and bless you.. for your hard work and good heart… Fight the good fight…

  5. Liz says:

    It’s so hard breaking and so true. Thank you for this insightful and heart-wrenching article. When is society going to wake up?

  6. CK says:

    Every time I have gone to a shelter, I leave crying. I wish shelters would take a lesson from people that know about animals, like zoos. Even the world renouwned Jane Goodall said that depending on the zoo, an animal is better off in a zoo than in the cruel wild. There is a way for us to care for animals without putting them in undersized cages.

  7. Jamie says:

    Crates, kennels have their place. *ANY* single tool in keeping animals can be used in an abusive way. Look at the leash, collar, toe nail trimmers, ect. Things that most of us consider normal in keeping a dog, horse or other domestic animal. Can these objects be used inappropriately? Yes. Same for cages, kennels and crates.

    I find it interesting that there’s a push for shelters to be cage free. I don’t understand that. Kennels keep dog fights down, and also help dogs adjust to the environment inside the shelter. Stress levels are higher when strange dogs are expected to see and interact with one another Fights and other social issues crop up in groups of dogs that aren’t very familiar with eachother.

  8. Carollynn says:

    In a perfect world, to commune with the animals (as well as God) would be easy, free, and SAFE. But this world has gone wrong, and we prey on animals as they would/could prey on us. Domestication, Captivity: to tether or cage, confine in some way until Trust is established, trust of harm or trust of no harm is nonsequator… What can we, safely, for the animal as well as self, use? I agree that long term captivity with the use of bars or cages is demeaning, harmful, and especially if close quarters, unhealthy both mentally and physically, but complaining about the problem doesnt progress the solution. Whats the solution?

  9. Paula says:

    Kennels and cages serve a limited purpose, and sould ONLY be used for specific limited purposes, such as travel, to isolate and injured or post surgery animal for protective healing and recovery. If a kennel is used for diciplinary measures constantly, then it makes it difficult for an animal to entry a kennel when it is necessary for his/her own safety and well being. I do not kennel any of my rescue animals unless as listed above, then they are free to roam and play. I own half a city block, It has 12 trees and I have a doggy door, they come and go when they need to run and have fun. And I hate it when I see a caged bird!

  10. im sure glad they are people like you guys i would do the same thing because im a animals lover aneything i can do i would thank you guys four helping the animals

  11. Tiffany says:

    So heart breaking to realise how the poor animals are suffering. We must all put a stop to this Animal Cruelty and Mistreatment!

  12. Cathy says:

    It is of no real surprise that the singular problem that all the creatures of this planet have is “the human.” How perfect the world would be without our intervention… without our existence.

    Our species, in its vast and unquenchable desire to dominate all that we deem “beneath” us, has systematically gone about destroying the majority of the beautiful animals of this planet… and for what? To what end? How ashamed I am to be of this species… but how glad I am that there are people like you trying to undo some of the evil that “the human” has done. It is a never-ending battle… and until we start putting our own kind in feces-caked cages, start poking, prodding and dissecting them for “the interest of science,” well… there may be no end.

    Perhaps one day, all those beautiful souls that “the human” has tortured in one way or another, will rise up… like the circus elephant… and stomp “the human” out.

    And I will cheer… and cheer… and cheer.

  13. I agree dogs and cats or any other animal for that matter should not be caged. They should be able to run free and have as much space as they need.

  14. dimple sher gill says:

    I heart aches,when I see animals in cages.Their state of mind is hard to imagine.I want to do something for them,but dont know where to start from and what to do.Please suggest something and let me join ur campaign

  15. luke says:

    i like duckies

  16. taylah says:

    i hate how animals get kept in cages because they need a proper home

  17. Viv Chesterfield says:

    What moral right have you or I
    To cage a bird that’s born to fly?
    Who passes sentence? You or me?
    Deny its right to living free
    Thinking it is kept so well
    Denying it’s a prison cell
    Give the bird a chance to fly!
    Set it free… “No! It will die!
    Sadly true, suffice to say
    You took the creature’s choice away

  18. mike says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I worked at an animal shelter for some time and saw just how bad these dogs were. Everyone of them would go crazy barking and trying to get your attention, they all just wanted out (Idk how many months they hadn’t left their cages before I got there). The other employees were so callous to it, that they just shut the door and went back to socializing with each other. I can only hope that humans become more compassionate.

  19. Harold Sims says:

    Check out my video CATS WITHOUT CAGES on Youtube

  20. Elsa says:

    that sad that animals are in cage i’m goning to spread the word to

  21. allyson says:

    its so cruel. why do it? wake up and see what you’ve done to a POOR INNOCENT animal. who’s going to stop this? WAKE UP society!

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