"A moral dilemma": WAMU looks at how Momma the pit bull may help change DC animal welfare laws

Princess, the previous dog at the Randolph Street address that pushed neighbors to reach out the HRA. Princess disappeared this summer, and Momma then came to live at the Randolph Street dog pen. (Photo courtesy Petworth neighbors.)

Princess, the previous dog at the Randolph Street address that pushed neighbors to reach out the HRA. Princess disappeared this summer, and Momma then came to live at the Randolph Street dog pen. (Photo courtesy Petworth neighbors.)

The story of Momma the pit bull is not, in any way, a happy one. In fact, as of right now, no one seems to know what became of Momma after her story of being left outside in freezing weather went public last week. Neither the Humane Rescue Alliance or the neighbors who have worked hard for so long to try to get this dog better treatment know where Momma is, only that she was finally taken from the Randolph Street home at the end of last week by her owner (who did not live at that address).

WAMU's Ally Schweitzer took a look at the story for NPR's All Things Considered, and spoke to both Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd and Lisa LaFontaine, the president of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), as well as the two neighbors who have lobbied HRA to help Momma (they used the pseudonyms "Jane" and "Mary" to protect themselves). The radio piece is well done, with the longer web article providing more opportunity for longer quotes and details. 

This story is difficult on many levels. Everyone who saw or knew about Momma wanted to rush over to the house and break the dog out of her small pen. As one of the neighbors said to WAMU, it's a terrible moral dilemma knowing a dog is being mistreated and not immediately grabbing a pair of bolt cutters to release the dog.

“It’s a moral dilemma to watch a creature suffer, and not… intervene,” Jane said to WAMU. “You’re trying to do the right thing, in the big picture, in the long run, and yet you have to watch this animal suffer.”

Both the neighbors involved in trying to help Momma and myself in writing the original article recognized that long-term change would only come from getting official help and changes to DC law. Breaking the law and stealing the dog sounds awfully heroic, but would have only resulted in complicating the issue, delegitimizing the neighbors' valid concerns and reducing the chance of legal changes.

Ultimately, it's up to the DC Council and HRA to work together to identify deficits in the current animal welfare laws and ensure that HRA's enforcement officers have the authority to take care of pets left outside in extreme weather. New legislation entitled the “Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act of 2017” was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Brandon Todd, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh and Anita Bonds to update the animal welfare laws, and according to the WAMU article, more must be changed to really empower the Humane Rescue Alliance. (See a PDF of the proposed legislation.)

Give the article a listen / read, and reach out to your Councilmember to encourage them to co-sponsor and support the legislation. 

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