As I wrote in November, I am currently working at the San Francisco SPCA. I took the job to bring something different in to my life as I do the heavy work involved with my Doctor of Ministry. I LOVE my job, I love the people I work with, and I certainly love when I get to play with animals, and more, when I adopt out an animal to their forever home.
As I move through this position and I learn more, I encounter, many times, the concern if the breed of dog up for adoption is “dangerous.” Pit Bulls, Huskies, Rottweilers – they all have a stereotypical reputation for biting and/or attacking, and are therefore banned from many apartment complexes where other types of dogs are allowed.
This all seems puzzling to me, because as my colleagues and I do our very best to save as many animals as we can, it’s the humans that are causing the harm to the animals in the first place. Animals don’t usually attack, unless they are taught to. Animals come to the SPCA and other shelters because they are strays, abandoned, or mistreated. By humans.
This has me thinking … what is the most dangerous breed? I continually have a different answer for this.
In my work in ministry and with animals, I’ve come to a preliminary conclusion – until humans stop hurting and harming each other, they will continue to hurt and harm animals. We all joke that humans are on top of the food chain. Yet, that’s really not a joke. Look at what we do to animals. The irreparable harm is devastating to animals, the earth, and to the overall connection I believe we must have had at one time in history, with all sentient beings on the planet.
In human to human form, this irreparable harm is illustrated in child abuse, domestic violence, murder, wars, rape, drugs, and, yes, violence toward animals. Humans eat animals, chain them up, shoot for sport, boil them alive, practice bestiality, race them for money, crush them alive because they’re just baby chicks, torture them for fun, keep them in cages so small they can’t turn around and then slaughter them for our consumption, make them perform tricks under a tent, set forest fires so they burn alive, murder them for their ivory, harpoon them for their blubber, zoo them for our viewing enjoyment, and wear them to keep us warm.
What is the most dangerous breed?
Viewing our current social, political and religiously charged climate at the moment, I can take this notion even further. Since January 9, 2017, there have been over sixty-nine threats made to Jewish centers around the nation, and over the last few weekends, dozens of grave stones in a Jewish cemetery were desecrated. In fact, hate groups are on the rise as the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a few weeks ago. Our new government is designing their legislative actions around hatred and racism toward certain groups of people, including Muslims, as well as Latinos. In that, it is difficult to find a person of color working closely alongside Trump as he blisters away at creating more divisiveness, claiming he is trying to keep us “safe.”
And, at the beginning of February, all the animal welfare violations were removed from the USDA website. Some have been restored, but, it is still not where it should be or where it was. More, neighborhoods in Chicago are having their own personal war. Syria is still in peril. Refugees are still drowning. Grandmothers are overdosing on Heroin with their grandchildren in their cars. Sexual violence affects us all and men are having sex with toddlers.
What is the most dangerous breed?
As a person with deep faith, even I get lost in dismay over all of this. How can one not? I continually ask myself and God if this is the world He wanted or hoped it would be, for all of Her Creation. I have to think that – it’s not. It feels perilous. Almost, and dare I go there as a theologian, as if evil is afoot. But, maybe evil has always been afoot. It’s just more noted now. It’s quicker, thanks to the media. It’s in our faces, with video, as opposed to reading about it days after it’s happened. I’m not sure. What I do know is that it is unsettling. Scary. And incredibly concerning. I believe there is a sacred interconnectedness between all of us – animals, humans, the planet, the universe, and God – it is all, and we are all, connected. When one person, animal, tree is harmed, we are all harmed. Because isn’t all of God’s creation, just that? It is all important. It should all be revered. It, and we, are all holy.
It’s all such a struggle. I am not a vegan anymore, so, I contribute to this harm I am naming. More, it’s a challenge. It’s a wonder that we are still in existence, as we seem to be hell bent on destroying each other, the earth, and anything we find that needs “fixing.” This world of ours. especially for those such as myself in ministry that are trying to make sense of it all, for ourselves, and for others, is overwhelming and utterly out of control, it seems.
In the Cost of Living, Arundhati Roy writes, “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
We are forgetting, I am afraid. Because if humans remembered, we wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. If we remembered, I wouldn’t be writing this. If we remembered, we wouldn’t hate so, and instead, we would love so. If we remembered, we would be capable of so much more.
What is the most dangerous breed?
Going back to apartment complexes that don’t allow certain dog breeds. It makes me wonder… Why is there not a clause in leases that states: “The following human behavior is not allowed: Men and women who commit acts of violence against their partners or children. Animal abusers of any kind. Convicted murderers. Sexual violence perpetrators. Anyone wo targets and/or is derogatory toward other humans for their race, religion, and/or ethnicity.”
Ridiculous, right? Or, is it? I am puzzled as to why we allow humans to continue to harm and cause violence against each other and animals, but, we make sure to “protect” others by banning certain dogs deemed as “dangerous breeds” – dogs that are only “dangerous” because of human intervention.
What is the most dangerous breed, you’re wondering? The real question we should be asking is, Who is the most dangerous breed. More scientifically correct, the most dangerous species? The unfortunate answer is, us. Humans. We are the most dangerous. The next question is, what are we going to do about it?
Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist, doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, State of Formation, and she was the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. Karen also has a featured chapter in Qasim Rashid’s latest book, Talk to Me: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion & Education. Karen lectures and teaches, with her last teaching gig at Meadville Lombard Theological School, where she taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop to students from six countries. Karen is a proud Wellesley College alumnae, has two Theological master’s degrees from both Andover Newton Theological School and Boston University School of Theology, and she is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Claremont School Theology. Karen lives in San Francisco, works with United Religions Initiative, the SF SPCA, and Bay Area Children’s Theatre, is an Ambassador with the Parliament of the World’s Religions, tutors women who are incarcerated, and she is a Domestic Violence Advocate.