North Country Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Essex County, New York
Football Star Jailed for Sponsoring Dog Fights
Three Cats Thrown from Speeding Car
Dog Shot “Execution-Style” Between the Eyes
12 Dead and 15 Abused Cats Found in Home
Headlines such as these can be seen in newspapers across the country every day. While most of you are probably familiar with the first story, did you know the other three headlines involved animals here in Essex County? Thanks to excellent veterinary treatment and the loving care of our North Country SPCA shelter staff these three cases had happy endings. But all too often, cases of animal cruelty end tragically.
Animal cruelty is far more widespread than most of us want to believe and it includes a range of abuse from neglect to willful cruelty. Neglect is a failure to provide for the basic needs of the animal -- adequate food and water, shelter from severe weather conditions, sufficient living and exercise space, sanitary living conditions, and attention to medical needs. Fortunately, law enforcement officers responding to reports of neglect are often able to resolve the problems by educating the owner. Willful cruelty includes all deliberate acts to cause harm, from torturing and maiming to killing an animal. While active cruelty is often easier to recognize and makes for more sensational headlines, both forms of abuse cause severe suffering and pain.
Neglected and abused animals are often out of sight and therefore these cases can go undetected for many months. The key to stopping such abuse is increased awareness. Signs of neglected animals include: patches of missing hair; dirty, matted and/or smelly fur; very thin animals; animals continually left alone without food or water; as well as animals left outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions. Other forms of neglect are not as clear: for example, it is illegal to leave a dog tied up or in an outdoor cage for long periods of time, and any dog confined outside must be provided with shelter from the sun.
Willful cruelty is usually more obvious, such as witnessing a person physically abuse the animal. But there can often be subtler signs such as scars, wounds and/or bruises. And you should report animals that are either very fearful or especially aggressive when around their owners.
If you suspect or witness animal abuse, call the authorities in your area who are responsible for enforcing the cruelty laws. Often this is the local animal control officer but you can also call the sheriff’s office or the state troopers. If you need additional information, call your animal shelter.
Remember, it is not your responsibility to investigate or prove that abuse has occurred; that is the duty of the designated authorities. And don’t be afraid to report your suspicions for fear that you might be wrong. Just like young children, domesticated animals have no way of either defending themselves or reporting what is being done to them. Giving your name can be helpful to the authorities but an anonymous call is much better than no call at all.
Dogs and cats make wonderful companions. There is an unspoken pact between us: we provide their basic needs and treat them with kindness while in return they give us loyalty, devotion, and love. When this pact is broken the results are often profoundly disturbing. Only through increased awareness and a willingness to speak up can we help the many defenseless animals subjected to cruelty each year.