Bruce dog on fire burned beaten
Ethics & Morality

What kind of person sets a dog on fire?

Bruce is a dog; a bull-lurcher from Little Orton near Carlisle. He has been badly beaten with a stick with nails sticking out of it, his skull fractured, his jaw broken, and set on fire. He has had to have an eye removed.

“I will never understand how someone could be so brutally violent towards a loyal, loving dog,” said RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes. “It’s heartbreaking and I really hope Bruce pulls through,” he added. “We believe this poor dog has been beaten with a screwdriver or a piece of wood with a nail hammered into it, giving him the severe puncture wounds and nasty eye injury which has then become infected.”

A post on its Facebook page said: “He had surgery yesterday to remove his damaged eye and today is eating and comfortable and getting lots of love from all our staff but we are waiting for our first tailwag.”

Isn’t there enough suffering in the world without this sort of barbarism? Why would anyone inflict this upon a defenceless creature? Dogs manifestly feel and form bonds of devotion. What is gained by such violence? What does it demonstrate? When God told Adam to subdue the earth ‘and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth‘, he didn’t mean for us to kill cows with a sledgehammer or set fire to dogs.

Perhaps it’s naive to believe that the wolf and the lamb can coexist in the present creation, but Christians are supposed to work for the abolition of violence: it isn’t just an eschatological vision, but a temporal commitment to mitigate suffering and injustice. Waging war and killing are, of course, sometimes necessary: the New Order of eschatological peace is yet to come, and armed violence is legitimate in certain circumstances. But what kind of person sets a dog on fire?

What kind of god demands the slaughter of animals to appease his wrath? It isn’t just the men who must be put to the sword (Deut 20:10-15), but everything that breathes (vv16-18). The Amalekites might have deserved what they got, but the oxen and sheep? The camels and donkeys? It’s one thing to hack Agag to pieces, but what kind of person sets a dog on fire?

The present age is one of sin and suffering: we lie and cheat; we lust and envy. We don’t always want to, but we do it anyway. There’s corruption and disintegration; death and destruction. The scroll of history is filled with agony and weeping. But do we really have to wait for the renewal of the created order before people cease such random and meaningless acts as setting a dog on fire? What pleasure do they derive from its yelps of pain? What joy do they feel as the nails pierce its skull and it cowers in terror of mankind?

Until Jesus returns to redeem the cosmic order, perhaps the only antidote to those who set dogs on fire is people like RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes. There are little platoons of men and women all over the world who not only fix broken paws but heal damaged souls. God bless you all: your animal compassion is transformational and inspiring. But there is a special circle of hell reserved for people who set dogs on fire: may they thirst forever in the flames of eternal oblivion.