Mississippi Animal Cruelty & Welfare
In cooperation with Lydia Sattler, MS Director of HSUS, we are sharing information from the recent Mississippi Animal Cruelty & Welfare workshop. Please note - this is for the State of Mississippi, only. All information is directly from the HSUS.
It is important to understand what, exactly, the Humane Society of the United States is, and what they can do. This YouTube video will help explain...
When a call comes in about a potential case of animal cruelty, it is important to understand what drives us.
What drives Animal Welfare Professionals?
Compassion • Love for Animals • Justice
What drives Law Enforcement?
Facts • Law • Priority
Unfortunately, just because something doesn't seem to fit our idea of a perfect situation, doesn't mean it can take priority. There is no agency in the State that oversees animal cruelty or welfare, alone. The job is left to our local law enforcement - and sometimes, through no fault of their own - they simply aren't equipped or able to make an animal welfare call a priority. In a majority of cases, their hands are just as tied as ours when it comes to the law. It's not their fault that certain things can't be done in certain situations.
The reality is - Animal Welfare professionals, the public, even law enforcement - must work within the confines of State law.
The authority to enforce state laws falls on local law enforcement.
You called and then did not receive a response…why not?
It is possible:
- They didn’t learn how to handle animal welfare calls
- They don’t know it IS their responsibility
- They don’t have a shelter or place for the animals to go
- They don’t have resources/equipment
- It's not a priority
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA IS BAD FOR GOOD RESULTS..
"So, you can't help this animal, officer? Well, watch this!"
- You just let everyone know where a crime is allegedly being committed, including the criminal. Chances are that the animal won't still be at that location by the time law enforcement gets there.
- Is what you are doing actually helping the animal?
- Do you know for a fact the story circulating is true? Was the situation investigated? You can ruin an innocent persons life by cyber bullying someone without knowing if it is true. You can also be charged with harassment or cyber bullying.
- Did you attempt to make contact with the right person/s before heading to social media? (The sheriff, the chief, a state agency, etc.)?
- It is very possible you just didn't connect with someone who actually knows what to do.
- You are making all animal advocates look unreasonable and like extremists if you did not take the steps to resolve the situation in a professional manner before going public.
- People will not take us seriously if we do not try to cooperate and act reasonably as a first step.
NO, THEY CAN NOT....
The FBI, governor, your congressman, the attorney general - none of these agencies are going to get involved in a local jurisdiction issue. Contact your State representative or senator for long-term changes.
WHAT ARE THE APPROPRIATE STEPS TO TAKE?
- Get an accurate address
- Determine which LE jurisdiction
- Contact appropriate LE agency
- Request a deputy/officer escort you to property for a welfare check on animal/s
- Arrange to meet them somewhere
- Give them a brief summary of complaint and action plan before proceeding to property*
*You should have somewhere in place to take any animals if a seizure order is granted. You don't want to be unprepared and scrambling for a place for the animals to be taken. If granted a seizure order or surrender - you can not leave the property and come back for more animals without another order.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE PREPARED TO DO DURING AN ANIMAL CRUELTY CASE?
- Be prepared to handle evidence collection
- Assist on scene with investigation
- Provide transport and placement for animals - if needed
- Be prepared to educate owners on proper care and what care is required under state law
IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER:
- NEVER go on someone's property without an escort from Law Enforcement (Request an animal welfare check)
- You have NO RIGHT to be there alone
- You have NO RIGHT to tell someone what to do with their property (You can ask if they need help, but you have no right to tell them what they need to do)
- If people tell you to leave - YOU LEAVE (unless you have a warrant)* This also goes for law enforcement
- Animals are considered property in MS
- People have a constitutional right to their property
- You must have sufficient evidence of probable cause to present to a judge to request a seizure order*
- Seizure should be a last resort in most cases
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PRESS CRIMINAL CHARGES?
- To avoid the cycle repeating itself
- You do not want to use resources revisiting the same situation
- There are plenty of other cases out there
WHAT TO LOOK FOR DURING AN ANIMAL WELFARE CHECK:
- How many animals on property **in case you have to come back, you'll know if any are missing, etc.
- Do they have clean water?
- Are their coats shiny?
- Can you see obvious bones protruding or injury?
- Are they lethargic?
- Look at length of toenails
- Look for signs of other animals, such as a hose leading to another pasture, a shed or outbuilding away from other animals
- Look for skeletal remains
- Look for empty feed bags, wormer
- Look for evidence of other crimes; child neglect, drug use
- Keep in mind what is ENFORCEABLE
YOU WILL HEAR THESE EXCUSES OFTEN
- You should have seen him before I got him!
- He is a rescue!
- It’s not mine!
- He’s old!
- I feed him everyday!
- What horse?! What dog?!
WHAT HAPPENS DURING STARVATION?
- When an animal is starving, he first uses up all his stored fat and carbohydrates.
- When there is no more left, he begins to break down protein.
- While there is protein in every type of tissue, there are no extra stores of it.
- Therefore the animal begins to use protein, not just from its muscles, but from even its vital organs such as the heart.
- The body also becomes severely depleted of vital electrolytes and vitamins.
- Once an animal loses more than 50% of its original body weight, prognosis for survival is poor.
- This is because an animal that is starved to this extent has had to utilize protein from his tissues, including vital organs in order to survive.
- Some tissues and organs can re-generate, but some cannot.
- There may be damage, such as damage to the heart, that is irreversible
It is imperative that you, even though it goes against everything we believe in, DO NOT go onto someone else's property to give an animal food, water or shelter. You could not only be charged with trespassing, but would also be doing more harm than good for the animal cruelty case. If an Animal Control officer arrives on scene and finds that the animal has food, water, shelter - there is absolutely nothing they can do. By law - the owner has provided the minimum requirements. Always call law enforcement and request an animal welfare check. If it is your neighbor, simply ask if they need a dog house, help with food, etc. If they say no, just let them know you are there to help if they do in the future. Then you must leave the property. Do not always assume the worst - but don't let a bad situation get out of hand, either. Just follow the proper procedures.
- Shaw PBR
DOGFIGHTING IS A FELONY
- You do NOT have to catch them in the act **However, for the charges to 'stick', they just about have to be literally caught in the act - by law enforcement**
- Any paraphernalia associated can be used against them; treadmill, break sticks,medications, logging chains, scarred dogs
- Drugs, cash, and illegal weapons often found
COCKFIGHTING IS A MISDEMEANOR
- We have the exact same law that was enacted in the 1800’s
- It is a popular blood sport in MS
- It is legal to raise birds for fighting
- Not every breeding operation is a puppy mill
- Do not expect LE to know what a PM is
- Ask for vet references, proof of rabies
Tylertown, MS Puppy Mill footage: https://goo.gl/ssW2EL
- No magic number constitutes a hoarder
- Hoarding is a mental disorder that requires psychiatric treatment
- Past trauma is generally the trigger
- Hoarders believe they are caring for the animals but in reality can not provide adequate care for them and often disregard their own health
Animal Hell in Marion County, MS footage: http://goo.gl/bRjNwd
KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS!
There is a fine line between being a rescue/shelter vs. a hoarding situation. Know your limits on the # of animals you can actually help - and stick to them. No one can save them all. Shelters are crammed to the limits - often with no where for the dogs/cats/etc. to go. Yes, Rescue Waggin', Homeward Bound, and other programs ship some up North - but how long can that possibly last? Rescues can't take all animals they are contacted about - there's no room, no money, no time...the list goes on. The same ones that complain the shelters/rescues don't do enough would be the first to complain about the horrible conditions that would inevitably exist if they (the shelters/rescues) did take them all in....
With the throw-away society we live in today, the best thing we can do is educate people on proper animal care, and especially spaying/neutering. The key is education - to prevent it from just getting worse and worse because people just don't know.
- Shaw PBR
KNOW YOUR RESOURCES!
- State Board of Animal Health
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks
- National organizations
REMEMBER: NOBODY CAN ENFORCE A LAW THAT DOESN’T EXIST
The PDF file of this presentation can be found here