Rochester admittedly has its share of problems: socioeconomic, educational, and transportation, among many others. Most problems will take a great amount of knowhow, community support, and time to correct. The problem of “junkyard” dogs—dogs used to guard, watch, or protect businesses such as car dealerships and metal recyclers while the property owners are absent—is potentially quickly solvable. Simple solutions would be beneficial to the animals that spend their lives lost on the lots of this city.
If we are to become a community of compassion, a community that supports all living things, we must realize that dogs, like all sentient beings, are not here for our entertainment, to protect property, or to live out their lives with limited or no clean food and shelter, often unprotected from the wind, heat, rain, or cold, on hot, hard, and dirty surfaces. Bare minimum of standards and care is not enough. [Read about Animal Law in New York State (PDF)]. Access to food, water, and insulated shelter is hardly adequate for any dogs, let alone “junkyard” dogs, given that the food and water can run out or become contaminated, and shelter is never heated. And there is of course the issue of companionship: dogs are not solitary creatures.
On Saturday, April 20, I found four dogs living on three lots near the intersection of Portland and North. At a scrap yard at 50 Portland Avenue (listed on the City’s online database as 42 Portland), two German Shepherds acted as sentries for this large industrial facility. Nearby, ripped cloth materials, garbage, and what looked like electronic waste debris littered the ground—an obvious violation of New York State law that requires a clean place for dogs to live; the metal debris was worse the following evening, despite the fact that this business was open during the day.
Around the corner, at 475 North Street, an auto body shop, a large Rottweiler stood watch over his tiny prison of cars. His bedding is clearly pine or some other kind of wood chips, but it is unclear if his shelter is covered or insulated. He did not have a license tag, a clear violation of the law. Moreover, what large containers I did see that I assume held his food and water had likely been used by birds, mice, and rats. Indeed, when I visited this location, these containers were being investigated by a pigeon, while a dead rat lay nearby.
At another auto body shop across the street at 488-490 North Street, a Pit bull mix also depressingly guarded cars. It was unclear if any of the dogs I saw had clean water and food, let alone any water and food. According to our laughable laws, dogs only need their water freshened every 48 hours! Given the number of auto body shops or tire shops and scrap yards in Rochester, there are likely many dogs living in the same circumstances.
And then there are Rochester winters and summers. When I saw these dogs, the outside temperature was 34ºF, hardly pleasant weather for non-Nordic dog breeds such as the Rottweiler, Pit bull mix, and two German Shepherds.
The four dogs I watched on Saturday appeared clearly friendly, but also exceptionally lonely. Although they were excited and wagged their tails, their eyes told the story of deep sadness. Is a life confined to the lot of a car dealership or a scrap yard any respect or thanks for the love, devotion, desired companionship, and loyalty of “man’s best friend”? What is wrong with people?
As Gandhi once stated, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Certainly this quotation applies to our community, especially to our collective lack of respect and humane treatment of the non-human animals standing guard on lots throughout the City.
City Council members would be wise and compassionate to create a municipal code that bans “junkyard” dogs within our community. It is as simple as that. Then we can move on to the next “pressing issue” that the City faces.
If you agree with my essay, please contact your City Council members:
Carolee A. Conklin
Dana K. Miller
Loretta C. Scott
Adam McFadden, South District
Carla M. Palumbo, Northwest District
Elaine M. Spaull, East District
Lovely A. Warren, Northeast District
Joel Helfrich plans to testify about this issue before the City Council on Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30. To support an initiative to ban “junkyard” dogs on Rochester’s lots, please call the City Council at 428-7421 before 5:30pm on May 14.
For a related story, see: Group wants junkyard dogs off lots and into living rooms .
Joel would also like the addresses of additional locations where “junkyard” dogs live. Please send private emails to [email protected] (the 00s are zeros).
About Joel Helfrich:
Tags: animal rights, animals, dog, Joel Helfrich, junkyard, junkyard dogs, metal recycling, North Street, Portland Avenue, Rochester, Rochester NY, scrap metal, scrapyard
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