There were cheers in the courtroom when Quincy police arrested Radoslaw Czerkawski last week for the abuse of Puppy Doe, the dog found last summer clinging to life. The pit bull mix had broken bones, burns and more-- injuries so extensive that the dog had to be put down.
I was as repulsed as everyone else when I heard the gruesome story of Puppy Doe, so upset I couldn’t bear to read parts of the detailed accounts of the dog’s sadistic torture.
From the day the Puppy Doe story became public it was a cause célèbre- reported extensively locally and nationally. Animal lovers insisted on answers- who was responsible? And why did he do this? Police offered a $5,000 reward for information and $35,000 was donated to the Animal Rescue League. While the search was underway, some 700 people stood vigil on a Saturday afternoon for the unnamed dog.
I understand the public disgust about the torture of creatures that are helpless and defenseless. What I don’t get is why abuse and torture of human innocents rarely generates the same grass roots anger and outrage. And I don’t understand why an abused dog will always unite communities in sympathy. There is still palpable anger toward one time dog fighting enthusiast Michael Vick, even though the football star renounced his actions, spent nearly two years in jail, and has made significant ongoing amends.
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System documents more than 3 million referrals a year of child abuse and neglect; these children are defenseless, too.
Here at home, the victims of Boston’s street violence typically don’t inspire widespread public compassion. Instead, the kind of shared despair sparked by the torture of Puppy Doe is visible mostly among residents who still remember victims like 13-year-old Steven Odom, shot as he walked home from playing basketball.
I know some will hear this and dismiss me as a bleeding heart – even an animal hater. Not true. But it bothers me that these days poor kids and disadvantaged adults are more likely to be attacked publicly—accused of draining communal resources rather than generating the sympathy and empathy offered for Puppy Doe.
Hundreds of Puppy Doe supporters demanded justice for the abused dog. I look toward the day when vulnerable humans suffering abuse will inspire masses of sympathizers to demand the same for them.