We all know buriers , many of us have been affected by one, and lots died because of them….
My first experience of a burier was being thirteen after confiding in my tutor in school. I was taken out of class one day, to see what was wrong with me. I was sad: really sad. My tears silently spoke my words before I gathered the courage, and fought through the internal barriers that shouted at me, ‘you’ll never be believed’ ‘they will believe you over her’ but my thirteen year old sad self and the frightened little girl was drowning. I didn’t want to be so sad or afraid anymore.
And so, I told her, how a teacher’s daughter (the teacher was her colleague & friend) in my school was bullying me. I told her how ‘she keeps getting me into trouble’ and how she was hurting me (physically/emotionally). One of these ‘troubles’ was telling a group of ‘not to be messed with girls’ I said something I was not capable of. I was cornered after school because of something I did not say and the ending is another day’s story. It ended up continuing because my shared story with my tutor got buried. And a thirteen year old girl from that point on was to learn for the rest of her life like so many others: even when you tell someone who can make hurt/abuse/fear stop – it doesn’t mean they always will.
And back to animals…. I have stopped – well, nearly stopped replying to people who ask me ‘have you reported these animals?’ Because I have, I had and now I’ve stopped. Because the answer is ‘they know!’ The answer is (most of the time) – it never makes a difference and help usually never comes. But like the thirteen year old me, in the beginning I trusted the system in place: the welfare numbers, the emails, the authorised officers you contact to stop animals suffering. Apart from one Guard who helped me get a dog away from a terrible life – no one has ever helped any dog, horse, cow, sheep, donkeys I have reported. Rescuers have. Always.
In fact what happened following many of my reports of cruelty was a character assassination by a department veterinary officer. Let me give you some examples: ‘she is trouble,’ to a close friend, and ‘stay away from her,’ to another. ‘We would have taken that horse you’re worried about – if she hadn’t! (the very emaciated horse was never taken by me but she never thought that rescuer would tell me! The horse died.) Not to mention what she said to many other rescuers about me. All my complaints were buried and in some cases the animals were buried too: they died because help did not come. One department vet told me to ring him in two weeks after he met me at a place where horses were up to their knees in water. He took photos and used words like ‘diabolical’. I rang him on the thirteenth day – he gave out to me that the two weeks weren’t up, and those horses were left to die. I bought two to save them. They were days away from dying. Years later I met the third one, a skeleton tied to a fence. Angry with me. Angry with life. He nearly killed me as I tried to comfort him. That DVO buried my complaint. And so I complained to the department and I got a letter back. They said ‘I was part of the problem.’ Me being the person that asks them to intervene in abuse. In one case I met a department official at a place where a mare was in a bad way. I told him I can’t keep feeding her as it’s too dangerous – can you seize her? He told me ‘sure she can pick bits around the trees but can you give her a bit to keep her going?’ The bits around the trees were moss! Her body score was 1 out of 5. Let me move away from me. I have a friend who through FOI exposed major corruption and cruelty in a pound along with questioning funding not going towards the animals. Do you know what happened her? One day I was there helping at her rescue. Department officials appeared investigating her! All her facts and figures exposed for public scrutiny and they buried her with veiled threats. Another rescuer who reported my concerns after witnessing the same cruel cases I was reporting, was told, if she didn’t stop reporting, her grant could be affected. They buried her support for the animals who needed her voice. And then there is another rescuer who questioned a possible department corruption and she was told she would be shut down by department officials if she didn’t stop.
So, when it comes to Ashton Dog Pound: when you wade through the incomprehensible level of terror, cruelty, suffering created by those who worked there, you are left with all the reminders of all the times people rang, protested, and begged for an intervention from those who signed the dotted line permitting this. There are those in offices who pushed complaints to one side, who went for lunch with colleagues, who chatted around the photocopier or gossiped around the water cooler, knowing they were confided in, knowing there were dogs living in terror or dying in excruciating pain, and what was and is their response: silence. It is deafening. It is like a knife plunging again and again in all the dogs that ended up there, there now, and about to arrive there. The saying ‘blood on their hands’ is not dramatic: it is the truth. No public relations consultant or glossed up media response can bury the truth forever. The graves they dig are shallow. Just like the mother and baby homes – where it took one courageous lady to keep blowing the whistle, to keep sharing the same stories, to stay vocal when people tried to force her silence, when a PR machine tried to run the gross tragedy of what actually happened over – again and again. You see, you, yes you, all of you, who are not just part of the problem but created this, can keep burying the truth, but the truth always comes out. You will run out of places to go with your truthful burden. When people stay by the spotlight and hold it still, the truth can no longer be buried and the abuse to begin again.
People who blow the whistle on abuse deserve all the support we can offer. They are telling the truths: the same truths many of us will say, ‘sure, I knew that was going on for years there!’ A desensitisation developed in many minds about Ashton Dog Pound, because nothing was ever done or could be seen to be done. It was the same horrific stories and video footage on repeat. Hands of helpers were tied! But no hands were held up in Dublin City Council to say: ‘we got it wrong and we are going to fix it’. Note to your PR department – this is what they should be telling you to do!
Now back to the people: the men and women who ‘strangled, kicked, and poisoned’ dogs in Ashton. Dogs already let down that they ended up in a pound. Many happy or relieved they no longer had to fend for themselves on mean streets or sleep in doorways or keep one eye open in fear. Ashton Dog Pound was meant to be their stepping stone to ‘begin again’. Many not just met their ending here – they were tortured to death. Look at your dog now, look into his or her eyes and see all the dogs that looked into these people’s faces wondering ‘what did I do wrong to you?’ Yes, it’s very very difficult not to be emotive but our collective emotion will not change things. Our actions and our voices have a better chance.
The teacher, the CBT counsellor, the animal lover in me really would love to look one of these people in the eye and read back to them – the long list of horrific abuses they carried out. All of me – not part of me wants to hear their excuses, their justifications and to try reach a part of them that sees it the way we do. Is it there? Does any compassion remain in these people? If not – well then according to diagnostic criteria – they are sadists: getting pleasure from pain. And yes, they should be prosecuted. So, then we get to the service providers, who permitted these type of people to ‘carry on’ and who allowed this work-place culture not just to exist but to thrive.
And then we are left with the obvious question… how could/can any council turn their backs on the dogs here and allow it to continue every minute of every day. Their approval was tacit. Is it a resigning matter? Of course it is! Would they have left their own dogs in ADP? Of course not….
Yes, they keep on burying the truth so it doesn’t affect their view from their plush offices or get in the way of their lifestyle funded by the tax payer.
But, there is no place deep or dark enough to bury this level of cruelty within most of us. And that is why so many of us are deeply affected. But we can never be guilty of being a burier too, to protect us from the images of their barbaric endings. They lived it; we are just viewers. So, when you think ‘I’m not able to think about it anymore….’ remember they weren’t able for the pain anymore; they never deserved to be starved, strangled, kicked or poisoned. Take your upset today and send a letter or an email in honour of the victims of Ashton Dog Pound. That is the kindest but most powerful thing you can do for the dogs here and those who have passed: to unbury the truth many want to hide, and to taint their view of their worlds with the ugly truths of Ashton Dog Pound. The abusive truths they allowed and maintain.