New Mexico's Pet Resource WINTER 2002


ANIMALS AND THE LAW

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE ANIMAL ABUSE: FILING A REPORT

If you see an animal you believe has been abused, you have several choices.

The first is always to call your local Animal Control officer. Not all areas of the state have this service, but most do. The level of response can vary from excellent to poor. This is always the place to start because these are the people in the best position to investigate and prosecute animal abuse cases. If you do not have a local animal control agency, you can contact the state police or sheriff in your area. The level of response is not the same throughout the state. The better the information you collect, the more likely it is that the case will be taken seriously. The following steps will help you give information to the officer, or to proceed with the matter yourself. The following steps work regardless of who uses the information.

First, always keep written notes of what you observe. The old - Who - What - When - Where - hold true. The more detailed the information the better. Always write down the names of every person, including yourself, who observes the situation. If the case is prosecuted the more witnesses the better. It is also good if more than one person observes the situation. Note the date and time of the observations, too. Then make detailed notes of exactly what you see. It is easy to forget little details later, and they can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful prosecution. Note in detail the condition of the animal, i.e. weight, any sores, wounds or bruises. Also note if the animal appears to be afraid of people, i.e. cringing, etc. Note the area surrounding the animal. Is there food, water and shelter available? If you know who is responsible for the animal, or who owns it, write that information down as well.

If this is a situation you observe over a period of time, such as an animal that lives next door to you, these notes will be critical to proving ongoing animal neglect or abuse. Remember that some animal abuse occurs over a period of time--such as starving an animal, or allowing it to be ill or injured and not seeking care for those conditions. This is actually the most frequent type of abuse.

If this is an emergency situation, get help for the animal as soon as you can. However, you should not enter private property yourself or you risk facing trespass charges. Try to get law enforcement, either animal control or the police, to do the rescue.

If you would like a form to help you collect information needed for an animal abuse case, contact Animal Protection of New Mexico. Their excellent form guides you through all the information that will help get an animal abuse case successfully prosecuted. Next time we will discuss what to do if you cannot get your local law enforcement to help you with an animal abuse case.

Theresa Welch is a former criminal prosecutor with 20 years' experience in animal cruelty cases in both New Mexico and California. She was instrumental in the passage of the felony cruelty bill passed by the legislature in 1991, and continues to advise people throughout the state on issues relating to animal cruelty.


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