(Keona, an abused dog rescued)
Nothing ruins a beautiful day by the lake like seeing someone beat a dog.
The man I saw on
Animal cruelty investigators say they get a spike in complaints about animal abuse when the weather warms up. They also caution against approaching someone seen in the act of hurting an animal.
“We never recommend running
up to anybody and trying to stop
them yourself,” said Joseph Giannini, who helps monitor animal cruelty
In this case, the more I yelled at the man to stop, the more he hit the dog. What response would have been more effective and less dangerous, for me and the dog?
“Call 911,” said Giannini. “Operators won’t just brush it off. It’s against the law to hurt or abuse an animal.”
Calls about animal bites are the most common. But between April 2003 and April 2004, 911 dispatchers took almost twice as many calls about animal abuse as about animal fighting. Almost a third of all animal-related 911 calls have fallen into the abuse category.
The department has trained almost 200 officers on how to spot animal abuse, particularly that related to dog fighting.
“We know that kind of activity is very tied into gang membership and recruiting,” said Langford.
But calling 911 is just the first step in a truly effective response to witnessing animal cruelty. The next one, becoming a witness or complainant, is essential for successful prosecution but hard for many people to take.
“Unfortunately, many people call and then leave the scene. People are afraid of retaliation,” said Giannini.
“Be prepared to follow
through,” advised Betty Clayton,
director of the Humane Society in
If you aren’t willing to testify against the abuser, prosecutors won’t bother pressing charges, she said. This is a difficult decision for people who are known to the abuser. The danger is real, said Clayton, and in her experience retaliation has included poisoning pets.
If the abuser is someone you know or live near, another option is to try to capture the cruelty in photographs or on video, said Clayton.
In cases where you suspect cruelty but haven’t witnessed it, call 311, said Cynthia Bathurst, who also works with advocates watching the progress of cruelty cases in court. It’s especially important for police to be called if the abuse might be connected to the drug trade, gang activity or dog fighting.
A lot of dogs at one
residence with many old wounds,
especially around the face and front legs, are a sign of dog fighting,
Another option is to make an
anonymous complaint. If the
evidence is serious, police can use the information to obtain a search
This requires being questioned before a judge or grand jury, but
Even in cases where witnesses call police, sign complaints and testify, animal cruelty convictions aren’t easy to obtain. That’s one reason for programs like the court advocates of D.A.W.G.
The presence of an advocate in a courtroom lets judges and prosecutors know that there are people in the community unwilling to tolerate animal abuse, said Giannini.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always enough. Judges often let people off with little or no punishment, allow animals to be returned to people accused of abuse and grant repeated delays, said Clayton.
One case she cited from
“The only reason I bother is
because I hate to see these
bastards get away with it,” she said.
The author, Linda Gibson, is a freelance writer and petsitter from Indiana, where she runs At Your Service Pet Valet.