Posted on 07 October 2010.
Animal cruelty is as common as child abuse and domestic violence,” said Donna Reynolds of Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit-bulls (BADRAP).In the Bay Area the spectrum of animal cruelty is wide and has varying levels. Often people have no idea that what they are doing is considered animal cruelty, as cruelty can range from active to passive.
[media-credit name="Alexis Daniel/ Staff Photo" align="alignright" width="300"]
This mixed breed dog with no name was a victim of animal abuse and neglect was being cared for at Oakland Animal Services off Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland. The shelter receives hundreds of dogs like this monthly.
Active cruelty, according to pet-abuse.com, “implies malicious intent, where a person has deliberately and intentionally caused harm to an animal, and is sometimes referred to as NAI (Non-Accidental Injury).” Passive cruelty, however, would be “typified by cases of neglect, where the crime is a lack of action rather than the action itself.”
Neglect of an animal is often as simple as an animal being “deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter,” as defined in California penal code 597. Leaving an animal unprotected from the elements is also considered neglect and is against California state law.
Reynolds adds, “We see the signs of neglect in animals that are emaciated, under-socialized, left outside without food, water or shelter, and/or sick and injured and in need of vet care.”
Stacey Street, Executive Director of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, described the most common forms of neglect: “We see a lot of neglected Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls that wind up in the local shelters due to excessive and poor breeding practices. One of the most common types of cruelty is excessive breeding by individuals who then do not take care of the puppies or kittens.”
Animal cruelty is something that is hard to recognize because there is no specific type of perpetrator. “You see it in every city and every socio-economic class around the country. In fact, studies have shown us that people who abuse their pets very often go on to commit violent crimes against people,” said Reynolds.
According to California penal code 597 anyone charged and convicted of animal cruelty is “punishable by imprisonment in the state prison or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, or, alternatively, by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.”
Often times though, just as the case with Michael Vick, who was charged and convicted of dog fighting, many will not face the maximum sentencing.
“It’s very rare to see an animal abuser prosecuted in the SF Bay Area. Even dog fighters have had an easy time getting away with their crimes here in the bay,” said Reynolds.
Street said, “You will rarely see overt cruelty. It is more often hidden.”
Ways to identify animals in need of care or response is difficult. “It takes a savvy eye to discern between a standard injury and purposeful abuse. In some situations neighbors are the ones to sound the alarm on abusers after hearing or seeing an animal in distress. Neglect shows up in the form of skeleton thin animals and/or dogs that are left outside in harsh weather without adequate food, shelter or water,” said Reynolds.
Often times it is the public who identifies acts of cruelty and notifies the authorities. In Oakland on Feb. 19 this year, according to the Oakland Animal Services blog, “… neighbors witnessed a man beating a dog with an ax on the balcony of an apartment on E. 17th St. The suspect, later identified as Charles Black, was yelling at the dog and striking him with the ax causing the dog to scream in pain. The witnesses videotaped the scene and called the police.”
This case is a prime example of how the public can take action without personally getting involved.
One major cause of animal neglect is often lack of education. “Neglect can source from ignorance, of course. Some people aren’t aware of humane care standards, especially if nobody’s taught them or set a positive example,” said Reynolds.
Organizations such as the Humane Society, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), BADRAP, Our Pack and various municipal shelters, such as Oakland Animal Services, offer free and low cost community education programs. These programs are developed to educate the public on proper care and training of their pets.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
For more information about how one can become more educated or support one of the many organizations who fight for the quality care and treatment of animals check out our Web site at www.thechabotspectator.com.