A man couldn’t stand to hear his girlfriend’s dog barking any longer, so he tied the puppy’s muzzle shut. Then, he posted a picture, bragging about it on social media. The backlash was intense, drawing the attention of authorities. But, it’s what they decided that’s perhaps the most shocking aspect of this story.
Matt McMichael of Eugene, Oregon was reportedly tired of Hank, the dog belonging to his girlfriend Sheela Deskins. In particular, McMichael thought Hank’s barking was excessive, so he decided to do something about it. He thought he’d end the seemingly continuous barking once and for all by using a plastic zip tie to secure the dog’s mouth shut.
Not seeing anything wrong with his decision, McMichael posted an image of Hank, who appears to be a dachshund, with his muzzle zip tied shut to social media with the caption, “When you’re tired of the (expletive) barking!!!” It quickly went viral, drawing immense backlash as viewers were left outraged by the sight.
According to Oregon Doglife, the “picture was posted on an animal rights activist page on Facebook called Exposed … along with a picture of the kid [Matt McMichael] who took and posted it on Snapchat.” Followers of the page subsequently went on the warpath, “writing emails and calling the 911 emergency number. Most if not all the complaints were from outside the state and all over the country. According to Eugene spokesperson Melinda Mclaughlin, they received just under 50 phone calls, (an unwanted distraction from the emergency calls), and 83 Facebook messages.”
When McMichael noticed the outrage that the photo of Hank’s zip tied muzzle caused, a Facebook user, appearing to be him, responded with the words “laugh out loud,” claiming it was a joke, according to The Register-Guard. “The zip tie wasn’t even tight, everyone chill out,” the user wrote. When the onslaught continued, McMichael reportedly deleted his account, but the damage was already done.
With several people calling for action against the man and the dog’s owner for what they felt was abuse, “a city animal welfare officer went to investigate and discovered McMichael no longer lives in Eugene and moved to the next county over in southern Oregon,” according to Oregan Doglife. “Eugene then forwarded the case to the Linn County Sherriff’s office.”
However, McMichael did not face any charges for his actions. “Several people sent emails to our affiliate station, KVAL News, saying the man who posted the photo lived in the Eugene area,” KATU 2 reported before adding, “KVAL reports that Linn County Sheriff’s deputies investigated the case and they say the puppy was not mistreated.”
The outlet further explained that the sheriff’s office determined no crime was committed. Instead, it was just “bad judgment on the man’s part,” according to deputies. They added that “the zip tie was loose fitting and the dog had no injuries or marks to indicate it was mistreated.” So, rather than facing any charges, deputies simply encouraged McMichael to “not post pictures like that” before turning the case over to Linn County Animal Control for follow up.
Of course, people were shocked by the outcome. The avid animal lovers on the Facebook page Exposed, which received a huge upsurge in followers after posting the photos, continued to fan the flames with some calling for vigilante justice. McMichael received threats of violence and even death as his employer was flooded with phone calls in an effort to get him fired from his job. People also encouraged others to continue flooding the sheriff’s office with phone calls. Sadly, there were also calls for people to go after McMichael’s girlfriend, Hank’s owner.
Although a photo is worth a thousand words, it is also a brief snapshot in time and can be misleading. Is that the case here? One can only trust that the various agencies of authority did their due diligence in investigating the incident and determining the dog’s well-being. Regardless of how you feel about what Matt McMichael did, inundating the sheriff’s office with unnecessary calls and calling for an attack on those who weren’t involved, such as Hank’s owner, is not the way to bring about the desired change.
But, you decide. Did Matt McMichael get what he deserved? Or should these keyboard warriors have let it go after authorities determined that the dog was not harmed in any way? No one behind their computer screen has all the information needed to make a determination beyond a reasonable doubt. After all, that’s why we have authorities who can investigate and we don’t depend on trial by public opinion to determine someone’s level of guilt.