Animal abuse citations rise

Michelle Stuckey
May 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Nearly 200 citations for animal cruelty have been issued this year by Animal Control.
Courtesy photos
Nearly 200 citations for animal cruelty have been issued this year by Animal Control.
Last year was busy for Animal Control workers and St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputies when it came to cracking down on animal cruelty, and this year is shaping up to be even worse.

From January to April of this year, Animal Control has already issued almost 200 citations for crimes including cruelty to animals, having a dog on a tether and not having a pit bull registered.

Angie Robert, Animal Control Director, said that the department and Sheriff’s Office have teamed up to be very proactive in catching animal abusers. This year, they have started distributing flyers across the parish to inform residents on spotting animals that have been abused.

“Don’t ignore it - look at it and report it,” Robert said. “It’s out there in our parish in our backyard and if you report it we have no problem bringing the Sheriff’s Office out there and prosecuting.”

Robert said that in 2010, Animal Control and the Sheriff’s Office worked together on 31 cruelty cases and 137 other animal-related cases, and that all cases were prosecuted.

Since the shelter has gotten the reputation of prosecuting offenders, they have received a huge increase in reports of animal abuse from parishioners.

Lt. Pam Schmit helps train sheriff’s officers to spot cases of animal cruelty, especially pit bull fighting. The office also teaches deputies the difference between how a healthy animal and a hungry animal look.

“It goes deep because a lot of these guys are like me - they love animals,” Schmit said. “It just rips them up when they see what they’re seeing in animal abuse cases.”

But Schmit said that not all animal cruelty cases include a pet owner who had malicious intent.

“Sometimes people just don’t have the knowledge to take care of their pet, they need to learn,” Schmit said. “I understand that you love your dog…but you have got to take care of this animal. You are responsible for it.”

Shawn Palmisano, an Animal Control officer, works with cruelty cases that are brought to the shelter and said there is a wide range of ways that animals are mistreated.

“Animal cruelty can range from a dog not having shelter or not having water all the way up to the dog being emaciated,” Palmisano said.

Palmisano said that the majority of animal cruelty cases that are brought to the shelter are dogs because cats and other animals usually stay hidden and it is hard for deputies or neighbors to see the animal and know something is wrong.

She said that cat hoarding and puppy mills are also a problem.

“People keep letting their cats have babies…they don’t realize that cats can get pregnant as early as four months old,” Palmisano said.

The majority of animal cruelty cases involve pit bulls. Abuse can range from fighting the dogs to just leaving them chained up to die.

“The one that pulled at my heart the most was a female pit bull four or five years ago,” Palmisano said. “We got her out of a yard where she had been chained with no food or water and she was really skinny.

“She was so loving and appreciative and eager to please.”

Luckily, that dog had never been involved in dog fighting and was adopted into a loving home.

Palmisano said that once a pit bull has fought other dogs, they are un-adoptable and must be euthanized.

“We can’t adopt out pit bulls that were used for fighting…we can’t take that liability,” Palmisano said. “It’s not that they’re even human aggressive - they’re highly animal aggressive.”

She said that any dog with bite wounds must be euthanized and that if a vet decides fighting was involved, any dog connected with the patient must be euthanized as well by state law.

But Palmisano said that the earlier they hear of cruelty cases, the more lives the shelter will be able to save.

“If people don’t speak to save a life, who will?” she said. “If they don’t call, the animal is going to die.”

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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