Predators, prey, and dead Maltipoos
In case you hadn’t heard, Jessica Simpson, of reality TV fame, has lost her Maltipoo, Daisy. An L.A. area coyote spirited Daisy away last week, and in spite of all efforts to locate her, she is presumed to be dead.
It’s easy to blame the coyote in cases like this (Tweeting voices have). The same goes for all kinds of predators. Take it from me, there’s nothing like seeing a cat take off with one of your baby birds in its mouth to get you thinking about widespread feline eradication programs (not that in calmer moments I would ever consider them). And when one of my canine patients was taken whole by a canal-dwelling alligator last year, his owner bemoaned the authorities’ lack of alligator-hunting initiative.
It’s a normal human reaction, this revulsion against the animals that take our loved ones. In the wake of these feelings, sharks have been hunted, dogs condemned, dingo packs slain, swamps drained, alligators shot, tiger-killing zookeepers dispatched, and trespassing bears pitchforked.
But is this what’s right?
In our saner, more enlightened moments, most of us here would agree it’s not. Animals do not acquire "a taste for pet flesh" and suddenly consume every wayward Maltipoo they can find. Nor is said Maltipoo a "gateway drug" of sorts to larger, less hairy prey, like ourselves.
The problem, of course, is that humans have encroached on wild animal habitats, and in so doing, we suffer the consequences of this close proximity to animal predators –– and in some cases, to animals that are merely attempting to defend themselves.
In the case of coyotes, it’s not just our trespasses, it’s also that they’ve learned to thrive on the attractions we offer –– garbage, outdoor pets, etc. But what’s to be done about that? Rampage against all the pet-killing coyotes of the world? Or contain your garbage and your pets?
Sure, it’s never an easy prospect, suffering the loss of a beloved animal, but when we take the time to understand our feral animal neighbors’ plight, and their basic drive to hunt or scavenge, we can’t exactly expect them to do any differently than they’ve done.
Even dogs that attack cats get a pass from me. It's the owner's fault, I always say. Whether it's a dog off its leash, or a cat on the lam, it's the human (who really should know better than to allow for unsafe interactions) who deserves the law's hungry maw –– not the dog, as is too often the case. Sure, accidents happen, but dogs shouldn't pay for obeying their basic instincts.
Similarly, Jessica's supporters should cool their Tweets on the subject of coyote killing. These animals may not be to your taste, but they don't deserve eradication on the basis of a Maltipoo meal every once in a while.
Dr. Patty Khuly