Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Abuse of puppy by Centerplate CEO creates furor; takedown by social media; letters

Shelley Fralic: A corporate takedown by social media

September 2, 2014 Vancouver Sun

A man is mean to a dog in an elevator. His meanness — a yanking of the leash, several kicks to a cowering Doberman pinscher puppy — is captured on surveillance video and eventually released to the public, a disturbing, hard-to-watch 55 seconds of animal abuse.

Social media, naturally, erupts in outrage and indignation. The man is outed as a corporate executive, and it is learned that the dog, named Sade, belongs to a friend in whose downtown Vancouver condo the man is staying.

The man’s name, the Internet screams, is Desmond Hague. He is the CEO of the U.S.-based catering firm Centerplate. Make that was. On Tuesday, after relentless worldwide condemnation of his actions in that elevator, Hague became unemployed, his company announcing that he had “resigned”. “The decision comes as a result of Hague’s personal misconduct involving the mistreatment of an animal in his care,” the firm’s statement said.

This, then, was the denouement after weeks of social media fury and flurry, after Hague apologized for the July 27 incident, after tugging his forelock and admitting it was totally out of character and that he was “deeply embarrassed and ashamed” at losing his temper with the puppy he was pet-sitting.

It also comes on the heels of his company’s efforts to address its CEO’s actions, and the growing threats of boycotts against Centerplate, which feeds fans at numerous North American arenas, including BC Place. Company directors ordered Hague to attend anger management classes, donate $100,000 to charity, and complete 1,000 hours of community service.

But that wasn’t enough. The SPCA launched an investigation (charges of animal cruelty are being considered), and online petitions to fire Hague attracted nearly 200,000 signatures. Fast forward five weeks. The dog, taken away by the SPCA, is reportedly doing fine. The man, however, lost his job.

What could be more absurd? What could be more of a Harvard case study on the troubling and growing phenomenon of the Internet lynch mob, and our unbridled propensity for sacrificing logic in our pursuit of overkill?

But this is what we do these days. We blow everything out of proportion, equating dog abuse with murder, launching our opinions into cyberspace in unedited fits of fury and indignation, often rendering our decisions without benefit of the twin properties of worthwhile opinion: perspective and balance.

We are especially moved to waging social media war when it comes to animals — and even more especially when it comes to dogs.

We hear the horrific story about six dogs dying in their dog-walker’s too-hot truck in Langley, and we hold memorials and kickstart online campaigns of vitriol, calling for the public lynching of the culprit responsible for the deaths of the “Brookswood 6” — as if they were a family slaughtered by a modern-day Manson. Should the dog walker be punished? Absolutely. But jail time? Get serious. They were dogs, not people. (Yes, you can now expect to see me burning in effigy in the nearest public square.)

Hurting a dog is unconscionable. As a society, we have a responsibility to address the perpetrators of such cruelty. Who can argue with that? But where’s the perspective?

What about those of us normally upstanding citizens who have slapped our kids upside the head a time or two in anger, who have smacked the dog or yanked its leash in frustration, who have done things we aren’t proud of even though we are by no means alone in having done them?

What about those parents, all around us, who treat their children poorly, who don’t properly feed or clothe them, who hit them and yank them around? Where are those online campaigns, and charges pending? Where is the outrage that our society does so little to protect children who can’t protect themselves? Why aren’t those abusers fired?

What about others in positions of power — people like priests, doctors, teachers, police officers — who do the unspeakable to those in their charge and who, all too often, are forgiven their trespasses and allowed to carry on? What about the real sociopaths, the men who beat women — their wives and girlfriends and daughters — in the dark of night? Where are those videos?

And, speaking of dog abuse, what about Michael Vick, the odious NFL star who did prison time for his part in an illegal dog-fighting ring in which dogs died gruesome deaths? Oh, right, he’s back earning a nice paycheque on the gridiron, yet another sports god having been forgiven heinous deeds. Why wasn’t he fired? Permanently.

But no, the CEO of a major company, by all accounts a valuable and talented leader, kicks a dog in a moment of pique, does and says all the right things to atone for his transgression, and yet is forced to resign because the nattering masses don’t think the punishment is enough. His hangmen might want to ask the opinion of the charity which, one presumes, is no longer getting that $100,000.

Welcome to the new kangaroo court, in which the verdict isn’t about fairness and due process and, we’ll say it again, perspective, but instead is justice delivered via overkill and mob mentality. We should give our collective heads a shake.

Comment: Carmina Gooch submitted a letter to the Vancouver Sun and copied it to columnist Fralic, as well. Fralic thanked Gooch for her “thoughtful response.”

Re: Shelley Fralic: A corporate takedown by social media

Dear Editor,

In Ms. Fralic’s opinion, the public reaction to the CEO of Centerplate kicking and otherwise mistreating a dog was “overkill.”
In fact, all are relations with animals are selective and full of inconsistencies. Why are our companion animals given more protections under law than those exploited in the animal agriculture business?
Consider ongoing campaigns that ask “Why love one, but eat the other?”
Moreover, why should violence, bullying, and abuse against the non-human species be any less abhorrent or unworthy of an outcry than that of cruelties inflicted by humans on each other?
Drawing awareness to man’s inhumanity to animals doesn’t undermine efforts that bring attention to other social justice issues. Abuse is abuse, no matter who the victim may be. It’s an issue impacting all of society.
Carmina Gooch Compassion, respect, and justice for those with no voice

April 15, 2015 update: Desmond Hague, former Centerplate CEO, was fined $5,000 and barred from owning an animal for three years – a penalty jointly recommended by the Crown and defence and accepted by Provincial Court Justice Frances Howard. Source: the Globe and Mail. Comments to the story were disabled for legal reasons, say editor.

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