For thousands of years, dogs have served as nature's most loyal ambassadors to mankind -- proving that our noblest qualities of camaraderie and affection aren't ours alone, and that the wild creatures around us likely have a sense of being not so unlike our own.
Sadly, dogs' proximity to us also means they're among the first to experience the cruelties humans seem uniquely capable of.
Police in Middletown, Pennsylvania recently rescued an emaciated German shepherd from a heartbreakingly bleak situation. For the last four years, the animal had been chained to a tree, abused, left to bear the elements, and be devoured by fleas -- and perhaps worst of all, denied the love of a companion.
The dog, which officers named Joseph, was transferred to a veterinary clinic where staff was shocked at the level of suffering the dog had experienced from willful neglect.
"There's no excuse for this. None,” clinic manager Michael Gigis said. “I mean, you can see, this is the worst case of abuse I’ve seen here."
WCPO-TV reports that the dog's owner, Jeremy Shane Temple, was charged with animal abuse and fined just $25.
According to the police report, Temple responded to abuse accusations by stating "the dog is not a human.”
It's probably not surprising that Joseph's (thankfully now former) owner denies any wrongdoing, but an empathy deficit towards other living things is reflected every day in cases of animal abuse, both in our homes and in the wild -- and in the lack of 'seriousness' such paltry punishments suggest these crimes are deserving of.