Animal Cruelty, Do You Know It When You See It? Dept of Ag Disagrees?

by Mary Haight on March 14, 2013

animal crueltySome sad news came in that triggered thoughts about how to get more people to report animal cruelty when they see it. If you’re a regular reader, you may recall a post about Suzi the dog, saved from a life of abuse by neighbors who contacted Lake Shore Animal Shelter for help. Suzi went from a very sad state of abuse and injury in the first seven years of life, to adopted and given a transformed life for three years with a family who loved her. Suzi died from a mass on her heart and complications with her kidneys. Do you know what cruelty looks like when you see it?

Animal Cruelty Next Door

What would you do if your neighbor was seriously neglecting his dog or cat? Who would be your first call? In Suzi’s case, since the owner was uncooperative, the neighbors called the police for 4 years. Unless the dog was in a life or death situation, there was nothing they could do about it. Some cities have special task forces to assist in this work, but if you don’t understand the protocols, you often won’t get to the right people. So many people have never heard of a “Humane Investigator”, let alone know where to find one.

Sometimes you believe you can approach the neighbor and talk to him about his pet — see if he is responsive to outside help with an offer to walk, feed or otherwise help with care. Then there are the truculent personalities who refuse your help and get angry that you interfered. Suzi’s neighbors had to sneak around the back fence to get kibble and water to her.

If you get no cooperation from local authorities, call area shelters and ask if they have a humane investigator or know someone who can help resolve the situation, much as neighbors did for Suzi. Don’t give up. It took people 4 years to find help, but they finally did it. They saved her, just as her adopting family did, giving her the best three years of her life. Of course, to hear them tell it, it was Suzi that gave so much to them — as it should be! For more how-to guidance on resolving animal cruelty in your neighborhood, including getting press, check the ALDF website.

Animal Cruelty Complaints, Your Department of Agriculture

Check your State’s Humane Care for Animals Act. This just came yesterday to my attention regarding a bill now in a senate committee :

“Amends the Humane Care for Animals Act. If the Department of Agriculture determines that a complaint made under the Act against a person or entity is false or unfounded and made with the intent to harass the person or entity, the Department may waive any confidentiality of the complainant and refer the matter to the State’s Attorney for consideration of criminal charges against the complainant. Effective immediately.”

While this is directed at “False Complaints” the Department of Agriculture should not be the judge and jury on what is unfounded, false, made with the intent to harass, etc, without any definition, scope, or limits to this power. Who would be reviewing these decisions, anyone? While I can see this would be useful and necessary for those who are abusing the system, it also appears to make it possible to shut down the whole complaint system. With few employees to handle a large volume of investigations, a revision might be a good idea. We want to encourage more people to report animal cruelty, not less.

Never a dull day here. Anyone ever run into a cruelty problem with a neighbor – how did you handle it? If you had to, was it easy to get authorities involved? (Excuse the rough draft that posted before I finished writing…I have no idea how that happened.)

15 comments
PuppySportswear
PuppySportswear

RIP Suzi. I hope your last three years more than made up for your first seven.

jetbarbieandbender
jetbarbieandbender

A rescue org in my city suggested putting fliers with their contact details in the letter box, as sometimes people want to be 'rid' of the problem and will surrender the animal. Unfortunately here it is very hard to get anyone to do anything, the RSPCA aren't interested and local councils apparently can't 'trespass' on to private property to seize a neglected animal.

MySlimDoggy
MySlimDoggy

We did have a problem a few years ago. A neighbor was rennovating their house. They moved out and after a few weeks, the renno stopped, but they would bring their dog to the house during the day to 'guard' it I guess. The house was torn apart, so the dog had only the outside and the yard was all dug up with construction supplies all over, no cover for the dog - it was really hazardous. They would bring the dog over and leave him there for days and days. I could see the dog degrading before my eyes. They were never there and I didn't even know their names. I called the local Animal Control, and they said they would look into it. I continued to see him there, so called again. They said there was nothing wrong - the owners took him home on occasion and he had water, and was fed so there was nothing for them to do. It was pretty upsetting that they couldn't step in. After another few weeks, I stopped seeing him there - maybe they thought better of just dumping their dog like this, or maybe something else happened to him. It was sad.

PeterFaur
PeterFaur

Good post, Mary. I had no idea that options like humane investigators existed. I know some of the Humane Society people in Phoenix well. I'll ask about this. 

Latest blog post: The power of yes or no

smolenskylaw
smolenskylaw

Animal cruelty bothers me very much. Personally, I love dogs. I had two growing up (at different times) and one when I got married (RIP because he has since passed away). In NJ, animal cruelty is against the law. There are agencies to prosecute animal abuse. Here are a couple of links about this in NJ: http://bit.ly/YmDW22 (my blog), http://on.fb.me/13Yc88z (my FB page). Good luck

haroldgardner
haroldgardner

I am not certain that I understand the line that is crossed from owners not taking good care to owners abusing & neglecting.  I suspect that from a education perspective, we need a bit better definition to help folks feel a bit more confident about reporting.

philrosenberg
philrosenberg

They've got to have some sort of language like this.  I've got a neighbor who would jump at the chance to lodge a complaint when my pampered dog barked at the door to be let back in.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @jetbarbieandbender It's more than a little disheartening when you can't find the right group or person to take action. And it's ridiculous that animals in need get caught in some regulatory catch-22. We all need to check that legislation is not standing in the way of removing an animal from a life-threatening situation, and if it is, campaign to change it. Never easy, always a long road, but there's good that can comes of marshaling forces, often a springboard to improving other problems in animal welfare. Thanks for sharing!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @PeterFaur Yes, when people don't know what's available to them it can hinder any progress that might otherwise be made. And Harold brought up a good point: What's abuse, what's neglect? Police have this very same problem when they are called out to take action in such matters. So many fine lines everywhere! Thanks for stopping by ;)

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @smolenskylaw Thanks for speaking up here! Animal cruelty is against the law in all 50 States, though they are not uniform. Laws are only as good as they were written, and will be fairly enforced only if they are understood by those agents of the law that are on the scene. Tough sticking points.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @haroldgardner You are correct - even the police are not always sure what constitutes cruelty to animals at law beyond the obvious food water shelter availability. And since each State has their own laws with many antiquated, poorly written and not well-understood directives, it's complicated for everyone involved. Thanks for stopping by, Harold!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @philrosenberg I know Phil, there are strange people out there who call 911 because their burger tastes bad...but I couldn't get over the fact that nothing had been added previously to cover this very real problem, and suddenly it's an immediate need. Everyone is doing more than one job in the workplace now, and government is no different, at least not at this level. There should be no open door for abuse on either end of this issue.

smolenskylaw
smolenskylaw

 @MaryEHaight  I was unaware all 50 states have outlawed animal cruelty. Thank you for that insight. :-)

 

I am not surprised, however, that the statutes are not uniform. Enacting the legislation is an uphill battle, and enforcement can be an even greater challenge. Indeed, all this can be excessively frustrating. Some might call the bureaucracy that is our government a charade.

 

I sincerely wish you good luck in your efforts. :-)

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @smolenskylaw I can understand why some people see much of our laws and system of enforcement as a charade. It may be that animal issues and the laws connected to them magnify the contradictions and enforcement problems given we are working with sentient beings -- makes outcomes more urgent. You "nailed" it when you said excessively frustrating ;)

 

Thanks for your thoughtful response!

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