Area vet weighs in on animal cruelty case
When the sheriff asked Perham veterinarian Dr. Bill Rose to review the file on accused animal abuse suspect Kathy Jo Bauck, he wasn't surprised.
"I've been to court (regarding the suspect) before," said Rose. "There have been problems for years and years."
Though he was reluctant to discuss specifics of the case, since it will be in litigation, he said that the situation at "Pick of the Litter" kennel has been the subject of several probes and actions over the past two decades.
"In the past, we've had a very difficult time getting the (Otter Tail) county attorney to prosecute," recalled Rose. "The attitude in the past has been that there are children that are being treated as bad as these animals, so how can we invest limited time and resources ... And I understand that point of view. But with a new county attorney, and different attitudes in society, things have changed."
These are different times. "It wasn't that many years ago that dog fights were legal in this country -- but no one would tolerate that today," said Rose, who owns Lakeland Veterinary Clinic.
Fault lies with the USDA, the agency which inspects and licenses kennel operators. Based on his past involvement in investigations of "Pick of the Litter" and knowledge of other cases, Rose believes the USDA continues to license facilities despite conditions that appear obviously unacceptable.
At one time, Pick of the Litter had 600 breeding animals kenneled there, said Rose.
Overall, Rose contends that there is not a problem with animal abuse in the area -- other than mostly isolated incidents.
Make no mistake about it. Dr. Rose, a U of M veterinary school graduate who has practiced in Perham since 1976, is not an animal rights activist, in the radical sense.
"I've always been a believer in the humane treatment of animals, and anyone who violates humane standards deserves to be prosecuted," said Rose.
As a rural veterinarian with years of livestock work, and as an avid hunter, he has been an instigator or a witness in the killing of thousands of animals.
"But if you are going to kill an animal, you kill it in a manner that is as humane as possible. As a hunter, I won't take a shot unless it is a clean shot. I won't risk a shot that will wound an animal that will then suffer."
"I don't talk much about the rights of animals, but I do talk about the responsibility of humans that are the caretakers," said Rose.
Philosophically, his views are both opposite, yet ultimately, similar to those of the animal rights activists.
"We're both trying to get to the same place, but we're taking a little different road. To me, it's not a matter of violating the rights of the animal, but about the violation of the responsibilities as a human being. People are held responsible and accountable for their actions," said Rose.
Animal rights activists, though perhaps well-meaning, don't always have all the information, said Rose.
He recalled an incident where he was called upon to investigate a complaint about dairy cows that someone thought were starving.
"They thought the cows were being abused because their bones were sticking out. But if you know the metabolism of a dairy cow, you know they don't breed well if they're too heavy. So, I went out to investigate a starvation case, when in fact, I recommended that they were being fed too much!"
The biggest problem he sees at his clinic is people overfeeding animals. "I call it loving them to death," said Rose.
Do animals really have rights?
Rose would argue that, since they do not have responsibilities, they really don't have "rights" in the human sense. "If animals did have rights, we wouldn't have the right to enslave horses to carry us around," he said.
Regardless of the question of whether animals have rights or not, it is a matter of an unwritten law. "It's not on paper, but it is a law that should be innate in all of us --the humane treatment of all living things," said Rose.
"The Bible gives us a set of rules and that's where our responsibility comes in ... I don't understand how one could claim to be Christian, yet treat animals in an inhumane way."