Why are we so cruel to animals?
By MARY MANN
PAUL SLESSOR'S heart breaks when he hears someone's been cruel to an animal.
But the 'terrible' acts of violence and neglect against helpless pets and wildlife are something he and dozens of other animal carers on the North Coast have had to face more and more recently.
In the latest incident, 15 birds were reported dead in the West Ballina area this week.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) suspects they were poisoned. It has called for the community's help to find those responsible for the 'painful deaths'.
Three dogs were recently rescued from Cabbage Tree Island by the local Animal Rights and Rescue Group (ARRG). The dogs were so neglected one had to have its leg amputated.
And the list goes on.
Barbara Steffensen, president of the ARRG, said incidents of animal cruelty were higher on the North Coast than she had experienced anywhere else in Australia.
The group, which works with the RSPCA, police and other animal welfare groups, receives at least 15 reports of animal cruelty each month.
"I've worked in a lot of places and it's worse here by far," Ms Steffensen said.
"It's linked directly to domestic violence. Animals are at the bottom of the power chain even kids can take out their aggression on animals."
Mr Slessor is a volunteer with ARRG, and has looked after more than 550 dogs and helped to get them adopted.
"I deal with unwanted and neglected dogs, but when I hear about animal torture, it breaks my heart," he said.
"The further inland you go, the worse it seems to get." Ms Steffensen said more RSPCA inspectors were needed in the area to help address the problem. Currently there was only one inspector from the Tweed to Coffs Harbour, she said.
Brian McLachlan, from NPWS, said dealing with incidents of animal cruelty was difficult for all involved.
"It is very distressing," he said.