Crime & Courts - What You Can Do About Animal Abuse
The recent discovery of two abused puppies has raised awareness about animal abuse. Here are several questions and answers about what can be done about neglect and cruelty. The information is furnished by the Humane Society of the United States.
Frequently asked questions about animal cruelty
What is animal cruelty?
Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. Most cruelty investigated by humane officers is unintentional neglect that can be resolved through education. Intentional cruelty, or abuse, is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.
Why is it a concern?
All animal cruelty is a concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature. Intentional cruelty is a particular concern because it is a sign of psychological distress and often indicates that an individual either has already experienced violence or may be predisposed to committing acts of violence.
Is there any evidence of a connection between animal cruelty and human violence?
Absolutely. Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
Why would anyone be cruel to animals?
There can be many reasons. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or to demonstrate rejection of society's rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy things they have seen or that have been done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal.
What happens when authorities prosecute an animal cruelty case?
Depending on the severity of the case, individuals found guilty may be imprisoned. Appropriate sentencing can also include individual or family counseling, community service, or diversion programs. It is rarely the goal of the authorities to imprison a child for cruelty to animals. Law enforcement officers and judges recognize that cruelty to animals is one part of a complex problem. Sometimes the official response to animal cruelty provides a family its first opportunity to get help.
Can reports be made anonymously?
While many jurisdictions will respond to an anonymous complaint, successful prosecutions often depend on an identifiable witness who can authenticate evidence.
Will I be required to testify?
If a case goes to trial and you have identified yourself as the complainant in either a written or an oral report, you may be called to testify.
Reporting animal abuse and neglect
What should I do if I witness an animal being mistreated?
If you witness animal abuse and neglect, please contact your local humane society, animal shelter, or animal control agency immediately. In most areas, those agencies have the authority to enforce state and local laws related to animals and the capability to investigate and resolve these situations. They rely on concerned citizens to be their eyes and ears in the community and to report animal suffering. You can choose to remain anonymous, although giving your name to your humane agency will enable that group to follow up with you when necessary.
These dedicated agencies have the important job of ensuring that animals in their jurisdiction receive proper food, water, and shelter, and are protected from abandonment and cruel treatment. The prevention of cruelty to animals represents the core mission of many local animal care organizations. Investigation requests can come from members of the community or other law enforcement agencies.
How are complaints investigated?
While the exact process may vary depending on the local laws and procedures, an officer will look into the complaint to see if animal cruelty statutes have been violated. If in fact a violation has occurred, the officer may speak with the owner and issue a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.
The majority of cruelty complaints stem from simple neglect of the animal, rather than deliberate abuse. The humane officer's biggest role is as an educator - informing well-meaning, but unknowledgeable, pet owners of the proper care of their pets.
In rare cases, animal neglect or abuse may be extreme and require immediate intervention. Depending on the circumstances, the animals may be removed from the situation by the humane agency to protect them from further harm. The agency will present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and possible prosecution. Some agencies have the power to obtain and serve warrants; other agencies work closely with local police who execute the search warrant on their behalf.
What happens to the pet owner and the animals in these cases?
State and local laws are written to protect the individuals being prosecuted as well as the animals involved. Such laws also determine how long the animals must be housed at the animal shelter while a case is being processed by the court system. Caring for animals seized in a cruelty case can be an expensive and time-consuming effort. When animals must be housed at the shelter for long periods of time while a case is being processed, it can create stress for both the animals and the staff.
With the best interests of the animals in mind, many states have established civil procedures to allow the agency to petition the general district court in the city or county where the animals were seized for a hearing to expedite custody of the animals to the agency. This type of process prevents a long stay at the shelter for the animals involved while waiting for resolution to the trial, and allows them to be adopted to new, safe homes or humanely euthanized if they are suffering or unsuitable for adoption.
How can I find my local animal care and control agency?
You can find the name and number of your local humane society or animal control agency by looking in your phone book's yellow pages under "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control," or by calling Information. Often, public animal care and control agencies are also listed under the city or county health department or police department.
You can also find contact information for animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community through web sites like www.Petfinder.com and www.Pets911.com. If there is not a shelter or animal control agency in your community, please report any incident to your police department immediately.
Facts about chaining and tethering dogs
What is meant by "chaining" or "tethering" dogs?
These terms refer to the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object or stake, usually in the owner's backyard, as a means of keeping the animal under control. These terms do not refer to the periods when an animal is walked on a leash.
Is there a problem with continuous chaining or tethering?
Yes, the practice is both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the confined dog, other animals, and humans.
Why is tethering dogs inhumane?
Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months, or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive.
In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores, the result of improperly fitted collars and the dogs' constant yanking and straining to escape confinement. Dogs have even been found with collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain. In one case, a veterinarian had to euthanize a dog whose collar, an electrical cord, was so embedded in the animal's neck that it was difficult to see the plug.
Who says tethering dogs is inhumane?
In addition to The Humane Society of the United States and numerous animal experts, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a statement in the July 2, 1996, Federal Register against tethering:
"Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane. A tether significantly restricts a dog's movement. A tether can also become tangled around or hooked on the dog's shelter structure or other objects, further restricting the dog's movement and potentially causing injury."
How does tethering or chaining dogs pose a danger to humans?
Dogs tethered for long periods can become highly aggressive. Dogs feel naturally protective of their territory; when confronted with a perceived threat, they respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person who unwittingly wanders into his or her territory.
Numerous attacks on people by tethered dogs have been documented. For example, a study published in the September 15, 2000, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17% of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners' property at the time of the attack. Tragically, the victims of such attacks are often children who are unaware of the chained dog's presence until it is too late. Furthermore, a tethered dog who finally does get loose from his chains may remain aggressive, and is likely to chase and attack unsuspecting passersby and pets.
Why is tethering dangerous to dogs?
In addition to the psychological damage wrought by continuous chaining, dogs forced to live on a chain make easy targets for other animals, humans, and biting insects. A chained animal may suffer harassment and teasing from insensitive humans, stinging bites from insects, and, in the worst cases, attacks by other animals. Chained dogs are also easy targets for thieves looking to steal animals for sale to research institutions or to be used as training fodder for organized animal fights. Finally, dogs' tethers can become entangled with other objects, which can choke or strangle the dogs to death.
Are these dogs dangerous to other animals?
In some instances, yes. Any other animal that comes into their area of confinement is in jeopardy. Cats, rabbits, smaller dogs, and others may enter the area when the tethered dog is asleep and then be fiercely attacked when the dog awakens.
Are tethered dogs otherwise treated well?
Rarely does a chained or tethered dog receive sufficient care. Tethered dogs suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care, and extreme temperatures. During snow storms, these dogs often have no access to shelter. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun. What's more, because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection. Tethered dogs may become "part of the scenery" and can be easily ignored by their owners.
Are the areas in which tethered dogs are confined usually comfortable?
No, because the dogs have to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in a single confined area. Owners who chains their dogs are also less likely to clean the area. Although there may have once been grass in an area of confinement, it is usually so beaten down by the dog's pacing that the ground consists of nothing but dirt or mud.
Note: Wichita passed laws limiting the tethering of dogs in September 2003. The law limits the length of time a dog can be tied up or chained to three one-hour periods a day, each separated by at least three hours.
But how else can people confine dogs?
The HSUS recommends that all dogs be kept indoors at night, taken on regular walks, and otherwise provided with adequate attention, food, water, and veterinary care. If an animal must be housed outside at certain times, he should be placed in a suitable pen with adequate square footage and shelter from the elements.
Should chaining or tethering ever be allowed?
To become well-adjusted companion animals, dogs should interact regularly with people and other animals, and should receive regular exercise. It is an owner's responsibility to properly restrain her dog, just as it is the owner's responsibility to provide adequate attention and socialization. Placing an animal on a restraint to get fresh air can be acceptable if it is done for a short period. However, keeping an animal tethered for long periods is never acceptable.
If a dog is chained or tethered for a period of time, can it be done humanely?
Animals who must be kept on a tether should be secured in such a way that the tether cannot become entangled with other objects. Collars used to attach an animal should be comfortable and properly fitted; choke chains should never be used. Restraints should allow the animal to move about and lie down comfortably. Animals should never be tethered during natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards.
What about attaching a dog's leash to a "pulley run?"
Attaching a dog's leash to a long line - such as a clothesline or a manufactured device known as a pulley run - and letting the animal have a larger area in which to explore is preferable to tethering the dog to a stationary object. However, many of the same problems associated with tethering still apply, including attacks on or by other animals, lack of socialization, and safety.
What can be done to correct the problem of tethering dogs?
At least 25 communities have passed laws that regulate the practice of tethering animals. Maumelle, Arkansas; Tucson, Arizona; and New Hanover, North Carolina, are a few communities that prohibit the chaining or tethering of dogs as a means of continuous confinement. Many other communities allow tethering only under certain conditions; Jefferson County, Kentucky, for example, prohibits dogs from being tethered for more than eight hours in any 24-hour period.
Why should a community outlaw the continuous chaining or tethering of dogs?
Animal control and humane agencies receive countless calls every day from citizens concerned about animals in these cruel situations. Animal control officers, paid at taxpayer expense, spend many hours trying to educate pet owners about the dangers and cruelty involved in this practice.
A chained animal is caught in a vicious cycle; frustrated by long periods of boredom and social isolation, he becomes a neurotic shell of his former self - further deterring human interaction and kindness. In the end, the helpless dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by in isolation - a cruel fate for what is by nature a highly social animal. Any city, county, or state that bans this practice is a safer, more humane community.