Animal Neglect and Abuse
Sadly, animals cannot speak for themselves and they desperately need us to speak up for them. Reporting animal neglect and abuse that you witness or even suspect may be life-saving. And while our State's laws provide little definition on what is considered abuse and neglect, as an agent for the County providing Animal Control, we investigate abuse and neglect situations almost daily. In fact our minimal State Code states that:
.." a humane officer shall take possession of any animal, including birds or wildlife in captivity, known or believed to be abandoned, neglected, deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter, medical care or reasonable protection from fatal freezing or heat exhaustion or cruelly treated"
While inadequate to create real expectations as to how animals should be cared for, we have been successful in many instances of removing and rescuing many animals from horrendous conditions as well as sending some owners to jail for abuse and neglect. This is an example of the living conditions at a hoarder's residence in our community that kept 41 dogs in these small cages stacked on top of each other.
What You Should Do If You See or Suspect Neglect or Cruelty
We will protect your identity, so do not be afraid to notify us. However for our internal purposes, we will need your name, address and phone number in case we need to talk to you further. Please don't be afraid to make the call when you see it!
Document what you witness. When you make the call, tell the person taking the information as many details of the situation as you can—i.e., the location, date and time, and descriptions of the people and animals involved. Video and photographic documentation (even a cell phone photo) can help bolster your case. It's also useful to give names of others who may have witnessed the incident.
Prepare to testify: While you may remain anonymous, the case will be much stronger if you are willing to identify yourself and testify to what you witnessed. Since animals cannot talk, a human witness is crucial for building a strong, prosecutable case.
How to Recognize Cruelty
While direct violence is the most obvious form of animal cruelty, animal neglect is by far the most common type of abuse to which animal control officers respond.
Signs of neglect. A shocking number of animals die from neglect every year, right under the noses of the entire community. If you see an animal in distress don't assume that someone else will take care of the situation; take action! Pay particular attention to:
- Chained dogs are most likely to die from starvation, dehydration or hypothermia, since their confinement renders them especially vulnerable and helpless.
- Animals without shelter in extreme heat or cold. While our State Code does not define what shelter is, there are some minimal expectations that owners should provide.
- Clearly emaciated animals: clearly visible bones and lethargy can be a sign of an untreated, life-threatening medical condition or imminent starvation.
- Obvious, untreated wounds or other medical conditions: animals who are limping or otherwise demonstrating distress, and animals with multiple patches of missing fur and open sores needing treatment.
- Too many animals living on one property. This can be a sign of animal hoarding.
- Dogs or cats inside abandoned homes. Reports of companion animals abandoned and left to die inside vacant buildings or apartment units are startlingly common. If you notice a neighbor has moved or has stopped coming around to a residence where animals live, be extra vigilant.
- Some dogs bark and whine to express their anxiety when they are left alone, but a dog who is howling or barking for more than a day sends out a clear signal that he's not being attended to. He may be injured or he may be abandoned. Try to find out if someone is at the residence, and if not, report it so that it can be investigated. If the neglect is ongoing or prolonged, it's often helpful to document it. You'll be better able to make your case and persuade authorities to take action if you've taken daily notes and photographs of the situation.
Obvious violence. No reasonable, conscientious person would ignore a child being beaten, hit or kicked. Neither should anyone turn a blind eye to animal abuse! If you witness overt violence against an animal or suspect it, speak up! If you don't feel comfortable directly intervening in a situation, quickly call the authorities. You can always call 911. Knowing that s/he is being watched might startle the abuser into stopping the immediate act of violence, but ultimately, most cases are best left to law enforcement. It is especially important to involve law enforcement when violence is involved because the abuse is likely to be part of an ongoing pattern of violence that may include both animals and people. Don't delay; time is of the essence!