New Mexico's Pet ResourceSPRING/SUMMER 2000


OPEN ARTICLE

WHAT IS ANIMAL CRUELTY?

  • Neglect (failure to provide shelter, food, water, or veterinary care, insect bites, skin sores, signs of fighting injuries);

  • Cruelty (striking, abandonment);

  • Extreme cruelty (deliberately injuring, poisoning, or killing).

 
WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO TAKE?

  • Take notes and keep them.
  • Take photos (a picture really IS worth a thousand words), but don't trespass.
  • Try to talk to the animal owner and educate him. Prosecution may not be necessary.
  • In documenting the case, the magic word is DETAIL!!! The more detail, the better chance the case can be successfully prosecuted if it goes to court.

  • WHO (animal owners, witnesses, officers on scene).
  • WHAT (situation in detail, why you responded to scene).
  • WHEN (date, time of observation(s), weather, temperature).
  • WHERE (exactly where on the property is it occurring).
  • WHY (why is it a violation of the law).
  • HOW (detail all actions taken at scene, including whom you spoke to, what they said,what you saw, condition and attitude of animal, response of animal to owner).

WHAT ARE CREATIVE DISPOSITIONS?

The goal of creative dispositions, used for first time offenders only, is to protect animals. In this way you can control the outcome of the case and avoid the risk of trial (some judges do not take animal cases seriously and give only a slap on the wrist). For example, it may be decided that the person not have animals for a prescribed period of time, be subject to unannounced veterinary exams if his animal is returned to him, or be required to do community service at schools talking about the treatment of animals.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW?

  • Get to know your local prosecutor, and consult with him or her as soon as possible in a case of cruelty. Not all prosecutors are willing to issue search warrants for animal cases.

  • You cannot enter houses, private lands, and other private buildings and seize evidence without a search warrant because when the case comes to court, the evidence may be suppressed. HOWEVER - If an animal is in imminent danger of dying, or if in doubt about his chances for survival, SAVE HIM.

  • In the case of dead animals, getting a vet to come to the scene to observe them and their surroundings is a good idea. A necropsy is also important to establish the cause of death.

  • Consider the time element. Animals held in confinement for too long can develop mental or physical problems, and the case may ultimately backfire.

  • Understand the law and your responsibilities. When in doubt, ask for help from experts. Sooner is always better than later in reporting and prosecuting cruelty cases.


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