What to do . . . If you discover animal abuse

Animal abuse. It’s a foul phrase, isn’t it? Most have heard or seen stories. Many of us scroll past them on social media because we can’t bear them. But what to do if you discover active abuse yourself? Can you pretend it doesn’t exist and continue supporting the animal charities you love in hopes that it balances the scales? How to know if it is animal abuse as opposed to someone simply treating their pet differently than you would? 

Oregon — and most states — have animal cruelty laws. In Oregon, statutes are summarized as follows: 

“Animal” means any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish. The term “assault,” which is generally associated with human crimes, is used to define certain crimes against animals. Animal abuse may be elevated to a felony offense if the act was committed directly in front of a minor child or if the perpetrator was previously convicted of domestic violence. 

According to ORS167.310 – 167.351, all domestic animals in Oregon must receive minimum care as follows:

-        Food of sufficient quality and quantity to allow for normal growth or maintenance of body weight

-        Access to potable water (suitable for drinking)

-        Veterinary care when necessary to relieve distress from illness, injury or disease

-        Access to an area kept reasonably free from excess waste or other contaminants that could affect the animal’shealth

-        Suitable air temperature for the animal 

The Oregon Humane Society has published a comprehensive booklet on Oregon law and animal cruelty; download it at: http://www.oregonhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/08-20-14_law_book2.pdf

If you suspect animal abuse or neglect, contact your veterinarian or the Oregon Humane Society. Explain what you’ve witnessed or know in as much detail as possible. If warranted, a Humane Society officer may pursue the matter. Be patient — officers must follow laws and protocols. Remember: things are not always as they appear. If a neighbor is down on his luck, perhaps you can offer help to his beloved dog. People sometimes find themselves in unexpected hardship. While neglecting our loved ones may seem unfathomable, it does happen. Lending a hand can sometimes make a real difference: to the person, the pet, and for you, too. 

Typically the first agency to contact about animal abuse is the county shelter. You might also try the nonemergency police line for further direction. The Bonnie Hays Shelter website says if you see an animal in distress, call 911. If you are uncertain or suspect abuse or neglect, contact the county animal shelter.

Animal abuse or cruelty in Clark County can be reported by phone during business hours (360-397-2488) or online after hours: clark.wa.gov/community-development/report-animal-cruelty  If the animal is a horse, call 360-397-2375 extension 2488.

Juno helps change the rules

An emaciated dog named Juno, rescued by Oregon Humane Society six years ago, has helped achieve a major legal victory for animal advocates in Oregon. A June 16 ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court turned aside the owner’s attempt to suppress a blood sample taken by OHS. The owner argued that Juno was personal property and that OHS had no right to take Juno’s blood without first obtaining a search warrant.

In rejecting that argument, the Oregon Supreme Court cited Oregon’s strong laws mandating that owners provide animals with minimum care. When an animal is legally seized and there is probable cause to suspect abuse or neglect, said the court, authorities are within their rights to obtain a blood sample without a search warrant. Juno, who was significantly underweight when seized by OHS, went on to regain his health and was subsequently adopted. The owner was later convicted of neglect.

The case began when an OHS officer, responding to a report of neglect, seized Juno after observing the dog's poor physical condition. Juno was then taken to OHS, where an OHS veterinarian took a blood sample, which showed Juno's emaciated condition was due to underfeeding.

“This ruling removes what could have been a major roadblock to cruelty investigations,” said OHS Executive Director Sharon Harmon. “We applaud the court for recognizing the special status of animals under Oregon law.”

Little dog big world — a tale of survival

They found him in a garbage can in Kuwait City, badly beaten and starving. One of his legs and tail had been broken, and most of his teeth knocked out. He was in bad shape. A passerby had heard whimpering and searched him out. Thankfully the Good Samaritan got him to a vet, who knew of a shelter for dogs like him, where he was nursed back to health. His leg was never set though, and to this day he wears the scars of his past: a crooked tail and leg, and a marked limp. But he is alive.

My stepson was teaching in Kuwait when his wife learned about the little dog. She called to ask if we would consider giving him a home. We already had two:  Olive, a Schnoodle, and Scooter, a Schnauzer. But my heart ached for this little survivor, and sight unseen, I knew we would say yes. Which we did.

My stepson and his family booked a seat for “Habibi” on their return trip to the states. Habibi is an Arabic term of endearment meaning anything from sweetheart to honey, lover, etc. But meeting their flight we got our first glimpse him, and he was anything but. He was an unhappy little white ball of fur, whose mouth literally turned down in a perpetual frown. He wanted nothing to do with us, or our dogs, who had accompanied us to PDX. Little Habibi was a great big grump! I was a bit taken aback, but should have expected it. My daughter-in-law reminded me of all he had endured, and we agreed he would need time to adjust.

Returning to our home in Bend, things got worse. He peed all over the house, and our two followed suit. He got into the “alpha thing” with Scooter, who had previously been numero-uno. I worried he might hurt little Habibi if something started that I couldn’t get to fast enough. Habibi snapped and tried to bite us too. I wondered if this had been a good idea and whether it could work out, saddened by the thought, and wincing a little at the expense of the plane ticket.

We walked our dogs daily to Pilot Butte, a favorite in Bend, and began taking Habibi along. Worrying that it might be too much for him at first, we sometimes left him at home. When we did take him, we carried him much of the way to spare his bad leg.  Over time he grew upset and vocal at being left behind, and we discovered he could go the distance with no help. Once he even escaped and trekked the few miles himself, trotting beside a busy freeway and crossing several major intersections along the way. A woman called saying he was at the top of the butte, and that he’d just strolled up the middle of the road, stopping traffic!

Early on Habibi would sit alone for hours, licking himself like a cat. The vet said this was a response to PTSD. Because the behavior wasn’t good for him, she recommended spraying him with water to discourage it. I felt bad every time I did it; thinking of all the little guy had gone through and how difficult it must be to adjust to new . . . everything.

Kuwait is all concrete and desert, no grass, so Habibi would poop on the patio or the sidewalk.  Grass was just one more new thing. Eventually he learned to use it.

Vets guessed Habibi was a Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier mix, 6-10 years old. His remaining teeth were rotten and had to be pulled. He tips the scale at around four pounds and is about as long as an eight-inch trout. But this little trout has an amazing ability to make people go gaga. Before he came people would ooh and ah over Olive and Scooter. Now it’s all, “Oh my gosh, look at the little white dog!!” His story has been told and retold hundreds of times at the butte, and in Bend he is a local celebrity. Now we live in Beaverton, frequenting Commonwealth Lake Park, and here he has also developed a following.

I often think what it must have been like for him lying bleeding, broken and hurting so badly in that trash. It would have been well over 100 degrees and, in addition to pain and thirst, he would have been burning-hot and starving. I wonder how he got there . . . the chain of events that led to such a horrific thing. Had he been someone’s pet? Had he run off? Been stolen? I have asked him many times, but he has yet to answer.

Today Habibi’s favorite things are walks and being in my lap. It seems now that if he only had these two things in life he would be happy. He has finally become outgoing, and actually loves people and other dogs. He thinks he is a big dog, and often rises up to kiss his larger friends. He is a wonderful companion and now gets nervous if he thinks I am leaving without him. When one of the others has a vet appointment, I have to take all the dogs. There’s just no other way.

I guess Habibi coming here was just meant to be. There were so many variables, so many “what ifs,” that it seems to come down to one thing: fate.

It’s hard to believe a person could do to a tiny defenseless animal what was done to him. It’s beyond reason, justification, or understanding. And while some of his wounds have healed, others have not. Sometimes he is very loving, other times very distant — perhaps an expression of the wounds we cannot see.

There is no doubt in my mind: This world would be a far better place if it were run by people from the animal world, rather than by animals from the people world.

Mike Epstein is a sports photographer/writer whose work has been published around the world, in publications including National Geographic and Sports Illustrated. Mike is currently focusing on animal and pet photography. and Olive.

Sometimes we all need rescue

Donna Lawrence wasn't a likely advocate for Pit Bulls, but 10 months after an attack by a Pit that caused her to miscarry and left her barren, she found a Pit-mix puppy who’d been beaten, burned, and left to die.

The eight-week-old puppy’s jaw was broken and her teeth knocked out because she licked her owner's infant baby's face. She was then set on fire and left for dead. She was found clinging to life with second- and third-degree burns, and horrible wounds covering her back.

Lawrence named her Susie, and raised the money to pay for the months of care her profound injuries required. She also championed her cause, ultimately passing "Susie's Law" in North Carolina — seeking stricter punishment for animal abusers.

Susie went on to be named 2014 American Humane Association Therapy Dog and 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog. 

The film Susie's Hope, released Jan. 5, chronicles both Lawrence’s and Susie's stories. Sales support the Susie's Hope nonprofit, which works to end animal abuse. Learn more at susieshope.com.

Help end horse soring

Congress enacted the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970 to make illegal the barbaric practice of “soring.” This is a practice of deliberately injuring/inflicting pain on Tennessee Walking Horses’ hooves and legs to exaggerate their high-stepping gait, known as the “Big Lick, to gain competitive advantage at horse shows.

Though the HPA was signed into law more than 40 years ago, the cruelty continues in the Big Lick segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.  A just-released video from an undercover investigator with The Humane Society of the United States exposed numerous instances of illegal soring at ThorSport Farm.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 3268/S. 1121, would amend the Horse Protection Act to end industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring,  strengthen penalties, and make other reforms necessary to end this torture.

Want to help eradicate this practice?  Write and call your state legislators. Learn more at humanesocietyorg.

When Does Your Dog Need a Lawyer?

You might find this headline silly — after all, it’s only in the rare case your Peaches or Petey bites someone that you would have the need to seek legal advice for your furkid, right?

“Actually, estate planning is the most important thing I can think of,” says Nicole Jergovic, 2015 Top Dog Award winner for Animal Law Attorney.

Not your pet’s estate, of course. Yours.

“Because pets and animals can’t talk, they can’t call 9-1-1 when they need help. The thing people need to deal with is to make sure they have made some care plan for their pets in the event they die or become incapacitated,” she says.

But it’s not just an end-of-life issue.

“When people are in a crash and they’re hospitalized . . . if they have pets at home and no one’s coming for a few days, that could be very bad [for the pet],” Jergovic says. “Put something in your phone or wallet that says ‘I live at this address and I have two cats that need to be fed.’ ” she advises.

As for dog bites, Jergovic says it’s important to contact authorities to make an official report, not only in case charges are filed, but if you’re on the receiving end of an attack, there’s record of it (and the offending dog).

In either case, Jergovic says it might be a good idea to get legal advice.  “I certainly wouldn’t want to be a non-lawyer going up against a lawyer in any type of case,” she says.

Legal issues involving animals also deal with cruelty and neglect.

“A lot of times, people are nervous about what they should do,” Jergovic says. “If they’re witnessing abuse or neglect that’s taking place right now, they should call 9-1-1, because it’s a crime in progress.”

What if something is not happening at that moment but you have information about an animal in dire circumstances? Jergovic says in those situations you can call police non-emergency lines.

“And you don’t have to be right,” she points out. “If you think something’s suspicious and you want to do the right thing, the right thing is probably notifying somebody who can figure it out.”

Oregon is reportedly among the best states in the nation for animal welfare law enforcement.

“We have separate dog fighting statutes, and our animal abuse felony statutes now have teeth to them — so if you have a prior violent felony conviction and you abuse an animal at the felony level, you’re going to be facing a potential prison sentence.”

Who would’ve guessed . . . a Deputy District Attorney can also be called ‘dog’s best friend.’

NICOLE JERGOVIC- Deputy District Attorney, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office • www.mcda.us

Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.

100+ dogs seized from Columbia County puppy mill


The Oregon Humane Society rescued more than 100 dogs Nov. 13 from a Columbia County puppy mill under investigation for animal neglect.  The dogs were taken to an emergency animal shelter set up by OHS, where they were sheltered and given medical care from the OHS staff and medical team.  The dogs include 35 Akitas, and many Dachshunds and other small mixes including Terriers and Poodles, ranging in age from puppies to adults. 

The breeding facility is under investigation for failure to provide minimum care for animals, including adequate shelter and potable water.  An inspection by Columbia County Animal Control documented unsanitary conditions, including pervasive amounts of fecal matter and urine throughout the kennels.  In one outbuilding used to house dogs, an inspector found no open windows or ventilation, numerous piles of fecal waste, and urine-stained flooring.

“We undertook today's rescue operation to stop the suffering of these animals,” said OHS Executive Director Sharon Harmon.  “The dogs at this breeding facility were living in shocking conditions.”  In anticipation of the rescue, OHS constructed an Emergency Animal Shelter (EAS) where the dogs will be cared for until the case is resolved.

The dogs seized from the puppy mill are not available for adoption at the present time, as they must be held as evidence in a potential legal case against the owner of the breeding operation. The owner could face multiple counts of animal neglect, each punishable by up to one year in jail and a $6,250 fine.  The operator of the facility could also be in violation of the Oregon Puppy Mill Act, which prohibits breeders from having more than 50 breeding dogs at one facility and also mandates minimal care standards.  Columbia Humane Society took 16 to 20 of the Akitas to its facility in St. Helens.