Two tales teeming with cruelty happened side by side last week, as if to present an object lesson in human beings’ nearly endless capacity to act without thinking. The second story, the more tragic of the two, filled Wednesday’s newscasts.
The gist: At 1 p.m, with temperatures near 105 degrees in Scottsdale, firefighters were summoned to Lost Dog Wash near 124th Street and Via Linda to save three hikers and a dog struggling in the heat. Rescue workers removed the trio from the trail using an all-terrain gurney. Each of the three refused a trip to the ER. The dog, a 4-year-old pit bull, wasn’t so lucky. Despite medics’ attempts at delivering oxygen using a “Fido bag,” the dog did not survive.
The animal’s owner, a 27-year-old woman, was cited for animal cruelty by Scottsdale Police.
As a dog owner and a lover of hikes even in triple-digit heat, I firmly support such a law enforcement decision because I would never drag along a pet on such a scorching afternoon. Without the ability to sweat – but gifted with fierce loyalty – dogs suffer mightily in the heat, but they’ll keep going until they literally hike themselves to death.
One hopes people would be smarter than to put man’s best friend in such a horrific situation. In Phoenix, in fact, it’s now against the law to take dogs hiking on the city’s mountain trails when temperatures crest 100 degrees.
Which brings me to the other tale of human stupidity, which you may have seen on the news Monday. Again, it involved hikers and bad decision-making. This time, rescue crews were summoned to Camelback Mountain at about noon, this time to fetch down a family of four, a dad and his three kids, ages 4, 8 and 10 years old. According to news reports, the clan of out-of-towners had somehow gotten lost after summiting the mountain and had been up there about three hours. When fellow hikers reported them as looking tired and out of water in the heat – again nearly 105 degrees – a park ranger hiked up to investigate and then called 911.
News video showed the family slowly trudging down the Echo Canyon trail, the kids looking wobbly from dehydration.
As for the father facing any legal consequences, there were none. Which strikes me as a mistake.
If it’s legal cruelty to take a dog hiking in triple-digit heat, then it’s equally cruel to drag along three small kids. You may point to the stories’ respective outcomes and say, well, the dog died, but the kids will fully recover. True, but that distinction disregards the intent of Arizona’s child abuse law, which says that actual injury is not required to bring a prosecution for child cruelty. All a caretaking adult need do is place a child in a situation “where the person or health of the child … is endangered,” and a crime has been committed. If the adult does so knowingly, we are talking about a Class 2 felony designated as a dangerous crime against children and punishable by up to 21 years in prison. Doing so recklessly or negligently are lesser felonies that carry up to 45 months behind bars.
Do I think the dad in question deserved incarceration for risking the lives of his kids on a scorching summer day? No. But he was cruel, he was reckless, and he put his children at serious risk. There should be a heavier consequence for such behavior than looking stupid on the TV news.
Because, frankly, I wouldn’t treat a dog the way he treated his kids.
– David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.