Editorial: Animal cruelty — Change comes slowly

Posted

The latest in a seemingly ceaseless series of local animal issues cannot be compared to the American Legion Highway calamity that put Westport on the animal cruelty map.

But it is disturbing nonetheless as further revelation that some here have a low opinion of animal care rules and those charged with enforcing them.

Details remain sketchy but a pig died of causes unknown on a Westport farm, the owner didn’t bury it for some days, and other pigs may have devoured some of the carcass.

And when a state veterinarian slapped a quarantine on the place, some of the pigs (there were way more than the four permitted) somehow escaped — thus defeating the intent of quarantine.

Westport leaders have finally made strides since the two-time tenant “farm” mess left the town name with a stain that will take time to erase.

There has been a house cleaning at the Board of Health, the Board of Selectmen seem to have taken real interest in preventing this from happening again, and inspection procedures are supposedly being beefed up.

The state, too, has finally reacted (six years too late) — most of those involved in the Westport case will appear in court to answer real charges in coming weeks.

But change will not come easily — one need look no further than Facebook to find evidence of that.

Participants in one exchange bemoaned town animal rules and shared advice on outsmarting them … “Every year I hide my pigs before the barn book inspection comes,” boasts one.

Westport’s best hope of restoring its good name (nearby towns, which have animal issues of their own, should take note) is to be relentless and unpredictable in its inspections and enforcement of barn book rules. Inspectors must pursue tips immediately (not drag their heels for a month or so), issue citations and levy fines. If a farm has a permit for four pigs but actually has 50 — that should result in a fine and perhaps loss of permit to keep pigs in the future.

Much as they have been treated that way, rules for care of farm animals are no joke . These creatures were not put on earth for people to torment.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.