December 12, 2006 in City

Animal abuse cases increase

Christopher Rodkey Staff writer
Holly Pickett photo

Morgan, the three-legged dog, gets a pat on the head upon his arrival at SCRAPS shelter recently. The dog, who is available for adoption, was shot and had to have his leg amputated. Animal protection staff have seen an increase recently in animal cruelty cases.
(Full-size photo)

Report abuse

To report animal abuse in Spokane, call SpokAnimal at (509) 534-8133. For Spokane Valley and Spokane County, call (509) 466-2532.

The Morgan Hills neighbors didn’t know why the stray black Labrador was limping a few weeks ago. Neither did the animal control officer who caught it.

It wasn’t until the small dog’s X-rays came back from the vet that it was discovered Morgan, as he was named, had been shot in the leg two months ago and left in pain, said Patricia Simonet with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service. Veterinarians amputated his right front leg Thursday, and the dog is looking for a home.

Morgan’s abuse is just one of 161 animal cruelty cases that SCRAPS has investigated so far this year, more than double the 69 cases last year. Though the number seems staggering, the increase may be due to better community awareness of animals, said director Nancy Hill.

“I think the community has a higher level of awareness that we need to take better care of our animals,” Hill said. “In the past, people tended not to report abuse as much, but people are thinking more about pets and pets’ rights.”

This year, officers at SCRAPS saw many instances of abuse. In March, officers rescued a dog buried under a concrete slab in somebody’s backyard. That month also saw the rescue of 18 cats living in squalor in an RV. In August, a man was found to have kicked and slapped a dog repeatedly, causing the animal to yelp.

In each of those cases, a neighbor called SCRAPS, and animal control officers responded.

“More people are calling because they know an agency will respond and there will be a result,” Hill said.

High-profile animal abuse stories often pique people’s concerns about their neighbor’s animals, said Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal CARE.

A September report of a Bonner County home housing 500 cats caused an increase in pet awareness in Spokane, Mackie said.

“Any time we have more of the outlandish cases, it brings to the forefront that something can be done in those situations,” she said. “People feel more comfortable calling.”

SpokAnimal is also seeing an increase in abuse reports. In 2005, more than 1,200 cases were investigated. This year has so far seen 1,416.

SCRAPS animal protection officers are special deputies of the sheriff’s office, and have the ability to write misdemeanor citations for abuse, Hill said.

However, many of the reported cases of abuse are difficult to prove in court, so SCRAPS often tries to educate pet owners about how to care for pets.

“Education is our first goal, but if it’s ignored, then we may charge them,” Hill said.

As for Morgan, the black lab was recovering Monday after the amputation. Even if the dog were trespassing when he was shot, it is still considered cruelty to leave the animal in pain.

Hill said it would be better to contact SCRAPS to have the animal picked up, rather than resorting to gunfire.

“The problem with those kind of incidents is that it’s not the animal’s fault, it’s the owner’s problem,” she said. “The animal pays the ultimate price.”

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