Animal abuse rare in Summit County
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County animal control officers welcome state Rep. Carl Miller’s bill that puts more teeth in existing animal abuse laws.
“It would be great,” said Animal Control and Shelter Department Manager Nancy Ring. “It furthers our efforts.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Summit County doesn’t have its share of animal abuse cases, Ring said.
Last year, shelter officials responded to 15 reports of abandoned animals, nine cruelty complaints and 10 regarding neglect. Officers responded to an additional 76 welfare checks, usually involving animals who are chained up without food or water or locked in cars.
Most incidents are the result of ignorance or neglect, Ring said.
One such case is scheduled to be heard in court Monday afternoon. It involves a dog owner who officials say failed to take care of the dog’s advanced cancer. The owner was out of town when the dog was reported wandering in a neighbor’s yard.
Such cases often require little more than an officer educating the owner about the minimum standard of care – including veterinary care – a pet requires. Others, however, are worse.
Two years ago, a dog owner was found guilty of beating his two dogs, and the judge said he was no longer allowed to own animals. Police arrested the man later when they learned he had obtained a new puppy and was abusing it, said animal control officer Leslie Craig.
The worst case of abuse Craig and Ring ever saw involved a man who got mad at his roommate’s dog after the dog growled at him. He pinned the dog down and began punching it; he eventually cracked the dog’s skull. The dog recovered and was adopted to a different family, Craig said.
Other cases involve old animals.
“People put off dealing with it,” Ring said. “They let it get beyond the point where the animal has any quality of life and is to, or beyond, the point of neglect.”
Ring acknowledges that euthanizing a pet is a difficult decision for pet owners.
“But when a dog has to drag itself around with feces all over its backside, that should be dealt with,” she said. “And it’s hard to educate some people. They get defensive. And a lot of people don’t believe in euthanasia.”
Last year, Craig noted, legislators increased convictions of aggravated animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a felony. This week, legislators approved a bill that strengthens existing animal cruelty laws.
“Before that, you could club a dog, set it on fire, and it was a misdemeanor,” Craig said. “It was a big benefit when it became a felony.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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