Fighting Animal Cruelty Guided By the Five Freedoms
Many folks are under the impression that Charleston Animal Society’s mission is sheltering dogs and cats. While it may seem so due to the thousands of dogs and cats we rescue each year, sheltering animals is merely one aspect of the multi-faceted 143-year-old organization. It’s mission to prevent cruelty to animals has never changed and it was founded to address the abuse of agricultural animals, particularly working horses. Sheltering of dogs, cats and livestock came about decades later in response to the inhumane care occurring in the local government pound; hence, preventing cruelty by removing those animals from inhumane conditions.
Driving this is the organization’s vision, No Kill. No Harm. No More., in which we live in a community where both people and animals are treated with respect and kindness; in other words, a community where cruelty is not tolerated. We pursue our mission and vision demonstrating three core values: leadership, tradition and excellence.
Building the first No Kill Community in the Southeast in 2013 was a major accomplishment for the organization. Although sustaining a No Kill Community continues to be challenging, the organization has been able to be more effective at fighting widespread animal cruelty through education, advocacy, reform, legislation and enforcement.
Every day, we receive calls or emails from residents and visitors bringing our attention to perceived instances of animal cruelty. Defining animal cruelty is often subjective for both the public and law enforcement. Laws are helpful but tend to be ambiguous in many cases impeding justice for the animals who are truly mistreated.
A few years ago, Charleston Animal Society, along with the majority of animal organizations across the country, adopted the Five Freedoms as its guiding principles in the humane treatment of animals, regardless of whether the animal is a pet, a working animal or one to be slaughtered for consumption. According to the Farm Animal Welfare Council, In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation, led by Professor Roger Brambell, into the welfare of intensively farmed animals, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison’s 1964 book, Animal Machines. The Brambell Report stated “An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom Itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs”. This short recommendation became known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms. These principles are relevant and appropriate measures of welfare for any animal species and has been adopted veterinary groups, the World Organization for Animal Health and rank-and-file animal organizations across the United States.
Freedom from Hunger and Thirst:
All animals need ready access to fresh water and a diet that allows them to maintain full health and vigor. This must be specific to the animal. For example, a puppy, an adult dog, a pregnant cat and a senior cat would all need different types of food provided on different schedules. Working animals would need access to fresh water while working.
Freedom from Discomfort:
All animals need an appropriate living environment, including protection from the elements, and a clean, safe and comfortable resting area. Animals should be provided with bedding and not sleep on a cold hard floor. Overcrowding will increase an animal’s physical discomfort and should be avoided. Do not forget about temperature and environmental factors, such as noise levels and access to natural light. If an animal is outside, it must have shelter from the elements as well as appropriate food and water containers that will not freeze or tip over.
Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease:
All animals must be afforded care that prevents illness and injury, and that assures rapid diagnosis and treatment if illness or injury should occur. This entails vaccinating animals, monitoring animals’ physical health, rapidly treating any injuries and providing appropriate medications for treatment and pain.
Freedom to Express Normal Behavior:
All animals need sufficient space and proper facilities to allow them to move freely and fully, and to engage in the same types of activities as other animals of their species. They also need to be able to interact with—or avoid—others of their own kind as desired by the animal. They should be able to stretch every part of their body (from nose to tail), run, jump and play or exercise at will.
Freedom from Fear and Distress:
All animals need both a general environment and handling that allows them to avoid mental suffering and stress. The mental health of an animal is just as important as its physical health. They should be provided sufficient enrichment, be allowed to hide in a safe space when needed, be free from too much noise and have ample space when confined. Psychological stress can quickly transition into physical illness.
The Five Freedoms provide a framework for determining if an animal has a high, good, borderline or poor quality of life. If none of the Five Freedoms are met, the animal has a life not worth living.
The Five Freedoms apply to every type of animal in every type of setting, including shelters, rescues and even private homes. Furthermore, they apply to working animals and animals being processed for slaughter. If the Five Freedoms are not being received by each and every animal, reform is needed.
Charleston Animal Society uses the Five Freedoms as a framework for determining if an animal is experiencing inhumane care, whether it is working, exercising or resting. As a community and society, we need to be steadfast and humane in determining how an animal should be treated, not how it can be treated when pushed to extreme limits.