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.