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What constitutes animal abuse and neglect?

We’ve all seen those stories, the ones that make us cringe and gape in awe at how cruel human beings can be toward the animals under their care. It is devastating to see hear about these acts and even harder to witness them with our own eyes. More and more people across the country are moving towards rescuing or adopting in various ways. Even some large pet stores are bringing in shelter animals instead of getting them from breeders. So it makes sense that more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of the treatment of animals, even those right next door.

This awareness sparks a new question for many people, what exactly constitutes abuse and neglect? We all want to see the best for our furry friends and to know that when necessary, we can be the voice for the voiceless. So how do we ensure that we know when that time is upon us and we are the person standing up to the ugliness of animal abuse? We educate ourselves and those around us.

In the state of Colorado, specifically in Park County, the letter of the law is as follows; “It is unlawful for any person, knowingly or with criminal negligence, to overdrive, overload, overwork, torture, deprive of necessary sustenance, beat unnecessarily or cruelly, mutilate or kill needlessly, carry in or upon any vehicle in a cruel manner, or otherwise mistreat or neglect any animal, or cause or procure it to be done, or, having the charge and custody of any animal, to fail to provide it with proper food, drink, socialization, or protection from the weather, or to abandon it. Any violation of this section requires a mandatory court appearance.”

Sometimes these violations are easy to spot and while tragic to witness it is vital to pay attention. Other times there are grey areas to consider. So when and how do you speak up when you feel that some part of this is being violated?

There are lots of factors involved, especially considering that everyone does things just a little different. Let’s say someone keeps their dog in an outdoor enclosure during the day while they are away at work. Does the dog have adequate shelter, access to water and a dish that is clearly there for food? Don’t forget that not all dogs are grazers and so an empty food bowl does not necessarily mean no food ever. Is the weather appropriate and are measures taken when severe weather hits to further shelter the dog? Noting the breed of the dog is helpful too, a husky type dog with its double coat is meant for cold weather and while they can usually withstand some pretty chilly temperatures, they should not be out unprotected in extreme heat.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. If something seems questionable to you then go chat with your neighbor and see if your concerns can be settled. Remember the old adage, honey attracts more flies than vinegar! Don’t be too quick to judge the whole situation.

When the situation is more severe and neglect seems to be obvious then your first call should be to the local Animal Control unit. Here in Park County we have an amazing group of hard working, dedicated and compassionate officers. They work hard everyday to protect the safety of all the animals in the largest county in Colorado. The Animals Control Officers of Park County are trained in understanding the things to look for in cases of neglect and abuse and they are quick to act.

Keeping your eyes open and speaking up when something seems amiss is just one of so many ways you can be the voice for animals. If you want to see how you can do even more good for the animals every day, contact Intermountain Humane Society for volunteering opportunities today.

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