Animal neglect is the failure to provide basic care required for an animal to thrive. At first glance, such cases may seem less egregious than a single, brutal act of violent abuse, but severe neglect can mean extended periods of extreme suffering resulting in permanent injury or death. A single large-scale neglect case can affect hundreds of animals, as in cases of hoarding, puppy mills and farm neglect.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund maintains a database of criminal animal cruelty cases in the U.S. reported to our organization. In the last ten years, over 30% of cases that we have tracked involve animal neglect. Issues common to neglect cases: Animal neglect is often associated with human neglect involving a child, elder or other dependent. Handling all of the animals involved in large-scale neglect cases (hoarding, puppy mills and farm neglect) requires considerable effort and expense – all animal victims must be examined, treated, catalogued as evidence and sheltered during the pendency of a court case.
State Law Most states’ criminal animal cruelty statutes define a minimum standard of care which requires that an animal caretaker provide water, food, shelter and veterinary care. Animal abandonment may also be specifically addressed in some statutes. However, by definition, some animals – such as farmed animals, fish or wildlife – may be excluded from anti-cruelty statutes, and some actors – such as farmers engaged in common husbandry practices, veterinarians practicing medicine or research facilities engaged in experiments – may be exempted from the statutes.
To read your state’s laws on animal neglect, see Animal Protection Laws of the United States of America & Canada. Legal advocates and prosecutors seeking advice on strategies for the successful prosecution of animal abuse cases can refer to ALDF’s Legal Advocates’ Manual for Animal Abuse Criminal Cases. Some state statutes also contain provisions separate from the animal cruelty statutes to address care requirements for breeding facilities.
(These may be in the agriculture section of the code.) Violations of state animal neglect laws are almost always misdemeanor-level violations. Washington and California have felony-level provisions for extreme animal neglect. In a state with only misdemeanor provisions for neglect, a diligent prosecutor can sometimes find an opportunity to charge a suspect with a felony, such as incidents involving large-scale property destruction.
However, this back-door approach highlights the need for improved state laws that allow for felony charges in cases of extreme animal neglect. ALDF’s report on Confronting Animal Neglect in America: Current Law and Future Possibilities analyzes shortcomings in neglect laws and suggests statutory language to confront the problem of animal neglect. Some state laws have provisions for pre-conviction forfeiture, cost of care bonds or liens, which can expedite permanent placement for the animals and allay the sheltering expenses for the care of seized animals.
To read about options for prosecutors seeking to gain legal custody of abused animals in states without pre-conviction forfeiture provisions, see “Solutions to Long-Term Cases in States Without Pre-conviction Forfeiture Provision”. Another way to expedite permanent placement for neglected animals is to use statutory provisions that allow a private citizen or organization to file a civil suit for an injunction against an accused animal abuser, thereby allowing the Court to terminate the defendant’s interest in the animals.
ALDF successfully used such a provision in North Carolina law in ALDF v. Woodley. Other states could easily adopt similar laws, using ALDF’s Model Animal Protection Laws Collection, which includes statutory language for civil injunctive relief for criminal violations. Animal hoarders present challenges to the justice system beyond other types of neglect because the hoarder may be mentally ill.
Furthermore, hoarders have a very high rate of recidivism. To stop the repeating cycle of abuse, sentencing orders should include psychological counseling and a prohibition on possession of animals. While these sentencing options are generally available to judges even where specific statutory language is lacking, adding them as mandatory provisions in each state’s anti-cruelty laws would result in such sentencing orders becoming routine.
Currently, only Illinois defines “animal hoarder” in their animal protection statutes and specifically requires convicted hoarders to get a psychological evaluation and treatment. If a hoarder is deemed incompetent to stand trial, his or her animals may be in a legal limbo. In 2006, ALDF won an historic legal case involving termination of an unfit guardian’s interests. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that where a defendant has been found incompetent, a Court can appoint a trustee, such as a humane society, to determine what disposition is in the best interest of the animals.
Ideally, in any case that results in a suspended prosecution or deferral, the Court should consider and provide for the best interest of the animals involved prior to dismissing the case. County/City Ordinances Animal-related ordinances at the county or city level are generally designed with the goal of protecting public safety and public health, although some provisions may be used to prevent the neglect of animals: Municipalities may prohibit tethering of dogs or may limit tethering by the type or length of the tether or by the amount of time the animal is tethered.
(A handful of state laws restrict tethering.) See a summary of anti-chaining laws. Municipalities may limit the number of animals a person can possess in the jurisdiction. Although primarily aimed at preventing public nuisances, such laws may also give local authorities a tool to prevent hoarding and puppy mill situations. Federal Law The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 7 USC §2131 – §2159, requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.
The Act provides guidelines for housing, enclosures, exercise, feeding, watering, sanitation and handling, but it does not regulate the type of experiments that can be performed on animals. The Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Violators may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties or may have their licenses revoked.
The Act limits the types of animals it protects. It defines “Animal” as a “warm-blooded animal, which is being used, or is intended for use for research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition purposes, or as a pet.” Notably, however, the following animals are excluded from the Act: birds, rats, mice, reptiles and farmed animals – these animals account for over 95% of the animals used for research and raised for food in the United States.
Facilities covered by the Act include: research laboratories, dealers (breeders and brokers), exhibitors (zoos and circuses) and transporters. Facilities that are exempt include: retail pet stores, direct sellers, hobby breeders, public pounds, private shelters, private collections, livestock shows, pet shows, rodeos and any facility using nonregulated species. The federal Twenty-Eight Hour Law, 49 USC §80502, addresses neglect of animals being transported across state lines by requiring that transporters “may not confine animals in a vehicle or vessel for more than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the animals for feeding, water, and rest.
”. Violators may be subject to a civil penalty. The website for the Animal Legal and Historical Center has more information on the AWA, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law and other animal-related laws. ALDF Resources ALDF offers several resources to assist in investigating and prosecuting animal neglect crimes and to strengthen animal protection laws: Confronting Animal Neglect in America: Current Law and Future Possibilities is a 2007 report reviewing the status of the laws of each state by chronicling both their statutes and case law as they relate to animal neglect.
The report then makes recommendations of statutory options that have the potential for reducing the tragic incidence of neglect in the future, including language for felony provisions, sentencing requirements and termination of an unfit guardian’s interests. ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program provides free legal services to prosecutors and investigators who are handling animal cruelty cases and to legislators who are working to improve animal protection laws.
Cases Robert and Rebecca Collier – IndianaRepresented by ALDF, the United States Equine Rescue League (USERL)filed a complaint in Indiana against Robert and Rebecca Collier for thecost for caring for eight severely neglected horses. ALDF is alsoassisting USERL in fighting a court order in Collier’s cruelty case,which stated that the horses must be returned to Collier. Michael, Judy and Gayle Keating – North CarolinaThe Animal Legal Defense Fund filed suit against threeNorth Carolina residents for severely neglecting eight horses whom theystarved – in one case, literally to death – and deprived of allveterinary care.
Janie Conyers – North CarolinaA dog breeder was keeping over 100 dogs and some birds in horrendous, filthy conditions with untreated, severe medical problems. ALDF filed a civil lawsuit resulting in a settlement that prohibited Conyers from ever owning another animal.Vikki Rene Kittles – Oregon, Wyoming, Florida, Mississippi, Colorado, WashingtonAfter being run out of several states, serial animal hoarder Vikki Kittles was keeping 116 dogs, all sick and some dying, in an old school bus in Oregon, where District Attorney Joshua Marquis and ALDF were determined not to let her get away again.
Jean Marie Primrose – OregonThis case involved neglected cats who were left in legal limbo after their guardian was judged incompetent for trial. ALDF won a landmark court decision regarding termination of an unfit guardian’s interests. Barbara and Robert Woodley – North CarolinaTo rescue hundreds of dogs from abuse and neglect at the Woodleys’ breeding facility, ALDF used a unique provision in North Carolina law to win a permanent injunction against the Woodleys, thereby gaining custody of their 325 neglected dogs, in the largest civil animal cruelty case in history.
Vernon and Katonya Zawistowski – WashingtonIn this case, the defendants were convicted of neglecting two malnourished horses. An appeals court opinion found that the horses suffered pain due to the defendants’ failure to provide adequate food.See Also: Animal Shelter Houma La
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Informative Facts Regarding Canine Abuse and NeglectWhile many of us (most of us, we hope) consider our dogs to be part of our families and would never harm them, sadly dog abuse takes place all over the world. Many people wonder what, exactly - is dog abuse? What constitutes actual abuse and is neglect a part of this? There are many different forms of abuse - including neglect and atrocities against puppies and dogs are done for a slew of different misguided and sickening reasons.
Being more aware of the terrible things that are done to canines all throughout the world and spreading the information about these facts can help! Making others aware about the murder, abuse and neglect of dogs - that by nature are kind, loyal and loving to humans - can help fight against dog abuse.1- The Most Abused PetWhile it may be due to the fact that dogs are the most popular pet in the US, Canada, UK and in many places all over the globe, the dog is also the most abused.
When speaking of all animal abuse cases that are reported, dogs - and Pit bulls or Pit bull mixes - are the most prevalent. A recent report showed that out of 1880 abuse cases, 64.5% involved dogs. The remaining involved cats and other pets.Puppies and dogs of all ages are abused in many ways, including:• Grooming neglect - In severe dog abuse cases, coats become horribly matted, sometimes to the point needing to be completely shaved off.
Grooming abuse can also include a lack of pest control with leads to fur imbedded with fleas and ticks. Neglect can include a lack of dental care, which often leads to loose and/or missing teeth, cracked teeth and gum/mouth infections which are not only painful but also can make it very difficult for a dog to eat and receive enough nutrition. Uncleansed ears can lead to infestation of ear mites which causes great discomfort and severe itching.
A failure to trim nails can lead to ingrown and/or broken nails which can cause discomfort and even cause puppies and dogs to develop limps.• Feeding neglect - Another unfortunate element of dog abuse is failure on the owner's part to provide proper food and nutrition. Starving and emaciated dogs become weak and undernourishment affects the dog's entire body, including a great amount of stress on the heart.
Sores can develop due to a lack of a fat layer that would otherwise protect the body when lying down. Domesticated dogs depend on their humans to feed them; instead of giving a dog up for adoption if food becomes too expensive, some owners choose to leave the dog to die a slow death of starvation.• Environment neglect - Everything from the soft, cozy doggie bed to warm sweater put on a toy breed dog affects a canine quality of life.
When a dog is tossed aside, forced to lie on a cold cement floor, put outside on freezing days or not cared for in all aspects that come with a loving, caring home, this is in fact, dog abuse.Another issue that falls under this category is the abuse that takes place when an owner leaves a dog in a car during warm or hot weather. This is a cruel practice that can cause a dog to enter into heatstroke within just a few minutes and it can be fatal in many cases.
The fact is, that on a warm 78 degree day (25 C), within just minutes the temperature in a car can climb to 120 degrees (49 C). On hot summer days of 90 degrees, a car quickly becomes a hot deathtrap reaching 160 degrees (71 C) in just minutes. Do keep in mind that cracking a window does not stop this from happening. 14 states have laws against leaving a dog in a car for any amount of time; however for some areas this is only illegal if the weather is very hot or very cold.
The effects of this type of dog abuse are heat stroke, brain damage and possibly death.Additionally, another issue that falls into this classification of environment abuse is hoarding. Animal hoarding is a nationwide problem in which an owner will obtain a high number of dogs (and often a combination of dogs and other animals) which is a far greater number than he or she can care for. Furthermore, owning over a certain number of pets is illegal in many areas.
Dogs that live in these types of conditions suffer from the effects of overcrowding, a lack of proper nutrition, and grooming issues such as flea infestation, matted coats, rotted teeth and more.• Physical/ Violent Abuse - Abuse against puppies can dogs includes physically hitting the dog, either by hand, with kicking or hitting the dog with an object. This also includes throwing the dog or other acts that cause physical harm to the dog's body.
Injuries may not show on the outside; as internal injuries from these sorts of crimes are common. In addition, hundreds of dogs each year develop brain damage to do physical abuse. Puppies under the age of 1 year old are particularly vulnerable to any physical abuse since their bones are not yet fully developed.• Emotional Abuse - Canines are very intelligent, caring creatures. Puppies and dogs alike are very in tune to their owners… they know when they are happy, sad or angry.
Many dogs will display a behavior that matches that of their owner. In addition, the tone at which one speaks to a dog will affect not only his behavior but his emotional wellbeing as well. Yelling or screaming to intimidate a dog and cause fear is in fact a form of dog abuse. 2. Dog FightingWhile dog fighting used to be legal, fortunately since 2008 forcing dogs to fight is illegal in all 50 states of the U.
S. and this also holds true for DC, PR, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. In many states across the country it is considered a felony to own dogs for the purpose of this illegal fighting. The type of felony charge varies by state, ranging from Class C to D and F. Some states simply have set prison terms such as California, where this abuse and crime against dogs will bring someone up to 2-3 years in prison.
Fines range from $1000 to $50,000. Illinois is one of the states with the highest fine of 50K.In addition, being a spectator at this type of horrible event is also a crime. Unfortunately, the penalties for this awful abuse do not always work as a deterrent.• In 2007, over 60 dogs were rescued from a dog fighting ring in Ohio. Over 20 people were arrested.• In 2007, 44 Pit bulls were rescued from a compound in Mississippi with 17 people taken in.
• In 2013, over 24 dogs were saved from an abusive dog fighting ring in Baltimore, MD, with 5 people arrested.• One of the most controversial and famous cases stems from the arrest and conviction of Michael Vick - An Atlanta Falcons quarterback - who was arrested for running a dog fighting organization in Virginia. How long did Michael Vick go to jail? He served 23 months. The 49 dogs that were saved from terrible, abusive lives were brought to animal shelters to be later adopted out.
3- Killing Dogs for their Fur A representative from the Human Society estimates that over 2 million dogs are slaughtered every year for their fur. As shocking as this may seem, dog fur coats are originating out of the Czech Republic and other Eastern European, according to the Humane Society. One problem with controlling such abuse is that only with DNA testing can investigators prove if fur is from a dog or from another animal.
Therefore, many coats with fur trim may actually be manufactured with the coats of dogs.4- Dogs Caught in Wild Animal TrapsAll over the world, domesticated dogs are being caught in painful wild animal traps. Most of the traps that injure dogs are those set up to capture coyotes and foxes (since they are close in size). This happens in many states, most notably in Maine.5- Abandonment Leaving a puppy or dog out in the middle of nowhere or dropping him off away from home to fend for himself, unfortunately, is a common form of dog cruelty.
This can happen if an owner feels that he or she can no longer care for the dog due to their own problems or no longer has the money to offer proper care. Another reason for abandonment is moving to a new location that does not accept dogs as pets. What can owners do instead of committing this type of dog abuse? Locating a no-kill shelter is an option that offers a puppy or dog safety and an opportunity to be adopted by someone who is better able to manage having a canine family member.
6- Puppy Mill AbusePuppy mills are large facilities that keep dogs in extremely cramped cages, to breed females over and over, often until death. The resulting litters are sold online, in pet stores and by other means. Many puppy mills are legal, even though dogs are kept in quite terrible conditions. By law, exercise can simply mean "room to turn around in the cage". Most dogs never see the light of day, most never are able to run and play.
Many die of the effects of overcrowding including disease such as heart and kidney disease and many females eventually die during labor due to overbreeding. 7 - Greyhounds are one of the most abused breedsThis is because this breed is used extensively for racing. Dogs that were once young and healthy are often discarded when they grow too old to perform. Fortunately, once this problem became well known, many rescue leagues have been established to care for and eventually adopt out these dogs.
8. - Laboratory TestingWhen people think about laboratory testing animals they often tend to think of moneys or rats (technically a rodent). However thousands of dogs are killed each year due to United States laboratory testing for foods, drugs, chemicals and cosmetics. According to PETA, approximately 75,000 canines in the U.S. are tortured in labs each year. Some universities have been known for taking dogs from shelters only to use them in experiments.
Canines are often used for toxicology studies, which involves progressive dosing of pharmaceutical medications, and harmful products such as pesticides and industrial chemicals. This is a severe form of dog abuse, as these animals are essentially being poisoned.