Animal Advocacy

How A Cruelty Case Works

posted March 15th, 2016 by
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How A Cruelty Case Works and What Every Citizen Can Do

By Ruth Steinberger

When an animal is known to be suffering due to cruelty or neglect, a call to law enforcement should be our first course of action. Many people are unsure of whom to call or what to expect, and citizens across Oklahoma even have wildly differing tales of how a case was handled by their local law enforcement agency or prosecutor’s office. Indeed, some people describe a swift response by a deputy who came out immediately and took action, and others have been horrified to see an animal in their community literally starve to death while their complaints were seemingly ignored.
Some citizens have complained that law enforcement acted like they were doing something wrong to make the complaint, and instead of getting help, they became “the bad guy.” It is necessary to understand what law enforcement agencies can and cannot do, what citizens should expect, and what you can do if you feel that cruelty concerns remain unanswered.
A cruelty complaint needs to be directed to the correct agency where it will be investigated, and if warranted, will proceed to a prosecutor’s office and into court. From the time of the complaint to the conclusion of a trial, Oklahoma’s laws are crafted to protect animals from cruelty, neglect, abandonment and more. As concerned citizens, we need to demand that enforcement of cruelty laws be forefront in the discussion of compassion and public safety. Only through grassroots advocacy will animal cruelty join other issues that have evolved into the forefront in the last four decades, including domestic violence, child abuse and drunk driving. Cruelty is a felony in Oklahoma; that means it is a crime in every single jurisdiction in our state.
In Oklahoma, the complaint should go to a police department, sheriff’s office or an animal welfare division of a municipal shelter designated by the city to handle cruelty complaints. Private organizations are not commissioned agencies; they may advise and assist citizens but lack the authority to take action beyond what citizens may themselves do.
The police dispatcher forwards calls for appropriate action; always request a call back so you can speak with the undersheriff, a captain or deputy. Have the correct location that the complaint is about, a description of the animals and other details. According to the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, most Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have less than one half of the national average level of staffing; it is less likely that a location will be found if an officer has to drive around to look for it. Anonymous complaints may be made regarding any felony, including cruelty; however, obviously, you will be unable to provide certain details or testimony later on if you do not identify yourself.
Animal cruelty (OK Title 21 § 1685), a felony in Oklahoma, includes “any person who shall willfully or maliciously torture, destroy or kill, or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to the person or to another, or deprived of necessary food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care to prevent suffering…”
When an officer arrives on the scene, if the animals are found to be at risk, but the situation is not critical enough to warrant felony charges, any Oklahoma peace officer or animal control officer may describe the problems and give the owner or caregiver a certain number of days to correct the situation. Called “terms and conditions,” (Chapter 67, § 1680.4), these changes will bring the owner into compliance, and they will avoid criminal charges. This is intended to correct the problem without seizing animals; it also helps support law enforcement if further action is needed later on.
Using terms and conditions, an officer may stipulate, for example, that a limping horse or an underweight animal must be seen by a veterinarian, or simply that an outdoor dog must have access to useable shelter. Under this statute, the officer must write out the terms and conditions, and they must be signed by the owner of the animal and the officer as well. Providing terms and conditions saves time for the courts and enables people to resolve a situation before it becomes dire. However, issuing terms and conditions before seizure is not required; if animals are in mortal danger, officers may bypass this step and proceed to seizure.
Following issuance of terms and conditions, the officer (or someone from their agency) will return to the site in the specified number of days to make sure the caregiver has complied. If they have complied, the situation will be considered resolved. If not, further action that may include seizure will be taken.
In the case of a seizure for cruelty or neglect, the law enforcement agency will obtain a court order to remove the animals from care and custody of the owner. Usually that means removing them from the premises, though in some cases the animals will be seized on site, with the seizing agency arranging for care of the animals at the owner’s premises.
Seizing on site may be used in large-scale cases where it is difficult to find temporary placement for the animals, or if animals are too debilitated to be moved. During the seizure, officers will document the scene; a veterinarian will normally be present, and the animals will be placed into a protective situation where they will be further evaluated. Unless the jurisdiction of the seizing agency has an animal shelter, an animal welfare organization will normally provide assistance at the time of seizure.
At the time of seizure, officers will ask for a witness statement from everyone who was involved. At this time, the case splits; a criminal case is prepared against the owner, and a civil case proceeds in order to determine whether the animals will be held throughout the case (at the owner’s expense) or if the owner will relinquish the animals.
The civil case safeguards the animals while the criminal case against the alleged perpetrator gets ready to proceed. Under Title 21, Chapter 67, § 1680.4, within seven days of a seizure, the agency that seized the animals will ask its district attorney to file a petition with the courts to mandate that a person pay “reasonable costs” for the care and feeding of the animals throughout the court case.
This hearing is to be held within 10 days after the district attorney applies for it, and the owner is given 72 hours to post the funds. Though it is called a ‘”bond” hearing, the owner does not regain custody of the animals by posting the money; it simply secures his or her interest in the animals, and should the owner be found not guilty the animals will be returned. If he or she cannot pay for feeding and care, or chooses not to post the funds, the animals are automatically released to the agency and may be sold or placed for adoption. Whether or not the owner posts the funds does not affect the criminal case against him or her.
At the bond hearing, the agency that seized the animals will show that it had probable cause to seize the animals. It may show photos and videos, have witnesses appear and use veterinary records to show the courts why the animals were removed from the owner.
The timeline for this civil process is expected to include seven days for the initial request to be filed, 10 days for scheduling the hearing, and 72 hours to allow the owner to post the funds for a total of up to 21 days from seizure to release or place long-term. Of course, this sometimes takes longer due to court dockets, etc. For agencies with little funding, donations of animal foods and supplies will be critical during this time.
The court will have pretrial hearings in which plea agreements will be entered, or the attorney for the accused will enter a plea of not guilty. Call the courthouse to monitor the docket, stay on top of the case, and make sure that advocates stay in the loop. If advocates are absent, the prosecutor and law enforcement have no way to know people care. Be the family of the victim.
Also, make animal cruelty a priority when you cast your ballot. All agencies or officials answer to voters or to other agencies that designate funding. Animals have only you to speak on their behalf.
As Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, tells TulsaPets Magazine, “Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for them do. Lawmakers must recognize the needs for better enforcement of animal protection laws across the nation.” (Animal Legal Defense Fund is a California-based organization that has fought to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system for three decades.)
Oklahoma has strong anti-cruelty laws; they are enforceable, and they need to be a priority. Jamee Suarez, president of Tulsa-based Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, says her organization receives calls from concerned citizens desperately trying to get help for animals who are suffering from neglect and cruelty. “Many have called their city or county and have gotten no response,” she says. “These calls are often tragic. Hopefully, more people will contact their elected officials to urge better enforcement of anti-cruelty laws.”
Because the forfeiture statute requires owners to pay for the care of the animals if the owner does not relinquish them, no agency needs a lot of money in order to take action; compassion counts first, and you, the concerned citizen, can place it front and center.

New Opportunity – More Lives Saved

posted February 23rd, 2016 by
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Looking Back

NOCC lineupNew Opportunity – More Lives Saved

On Thursday PAAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center (NOCC). This is a program that I believe in because I’ve seen the results.

While at another rescue, I had the opportunity to work with the prison program at Lexington. We had a growly, snappy, disgruntled Schnauzer (Sarge). As Sarge left the shelter my hope was he would learn to play nice in this world so we could find him a new home. What happened is so much better. Fast forward about 6 months, and Lee (Lexington program director) calls to tell me he has the new therapy/greeter for the Norman Veterans Center. I named two or three possibilities, but when he said Sarge I was stunned. Yes Sarge greets everyone, loves everyone and brings smiles to the veterans/staff/visitors. And, he was honored in 2015 as the Oklahoma Veterinary Association Hero of the Year. What happened? Mr. Miller, an inmate at Lexington, patiently worked with Sarge and the real dog emerged. Prison programs like this change the lives of the inmates as well as the dogs.

As we walked down the hall of one unit, there were men sitting in their cells – – – they weren’t working, learning a new skill, being productive – – they were sitting. With our shelter dogs, if they stay in a kennel all the time – no play, no interaction – – they become like Sarge – – trouble. Hmmm The warden and staff said inmates wanted to know about the program, what did they have to do to be considered, when was it going to start – – lots of questions. From working with the program at Lexington, I know the selected inmates will benefit along with our dogs.

Go to youtube – type in The Dogs of Lexington – select the one by John Otto (43 minutes) – – Sarge changed my life and he continues to bring happiness to those at the Norman Veterans Center – – – it works – – it really does.

Kay Stout, Director   PAAS Vinita  [email protected]  918-256-7227

Missing Cat!

posted February 21st, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Missing Cat!

By Dolores Proubasta

 

Instead of panicking, enlist an action plan.

Cats don’t like to roam; most would rather stay home on a favorite armchair or window sill looking out, feeling wrongfully imprisoned.

Forced to “enjoy freedom” by guardians blissfully unaware of traffic, poisons, dogs, aggressive toms, pregnancy, neighbors who don’t like cats and other dangers, a cat will stake his territory, usually very close to home, and fend for himself as well as he can. For entertainment, he will do exactly what he would do in the safety of a living room (observe, sleep, chase, groom…) with the occasional kill of a songbird as a bonus. In fact, there is not much out there to do for an animal that has no place in the wild, and much less in the city, except as a “companion.”

Outdoor-access cats develop a check-in routine for feedings or human companionship. When they fail to show up at the usual time, guardians should presume their pet is in trouble and start an immediate search, following the recommendations stated below. Intact males and females are even more at risk because, even if able to return, the males may be wounded, and the females will be pregnant.

For cats to live long, healthy lives, the only alternative is to adhere to the indoor-only plan. However, a door is left ajar or a screen comes off the window frame, and before you know it, the cat is out.

Given a chance, most indoor cats will heed the call of the wild only to discover there is danger all around. Faced with strange smells, noises, and creatures, the errant cat, instead of high-tailing it back to safety, may go into hiding. If vocal, he’ll be quiet; if friendly, he’ll avoid people; and movement will be under the cover of bushes, night and shadows.

Back home, the cat’s absence is met with justifiable panic. The first impulse is to send out search parties in different directions to cover as much ground as possible and to plaster every utility pole in town with “Lost” posters. This M.O. is the correct one… if a dog goes missing. However, if a cat goes missing it requires subtle adjustments explained below. The first thing to remember to recover your cat is that he will rarely stray beyond three or four houses in either direction from where he ran out. Of course, a cat cared for enough to be kept indoors is presumed to be spayed and neutered; if not, all bets are off.

Quick action, a good plan and perseverance are imperative. Don’t ever think “He’ll find his way back,” because there are at least as many chances he will not. Waste no time and do the following:

  1. Put food and water by the door the cat exited.

Keep it fresh. Alternatively, set a humane trap (see 7 below).

  1. Search for the cat right away.

Don’t be discouraged if the first attempt fails; the cat may still be enjoying the newly gained freedom. Walk the immediate neighborhood at least twice a day without fail (preferably in the quiet hours of the early morning and late evening—take a flashlight). Search for the cat alone; only the cat’s closest people should be involved because un-familiar voices and smells will send him into deeper hiding. Don’t send a child to do the job unless it’s the cat’s primary friend.

Your personal and steady involvement in the search helps remind your neighbors that the missing pet is not a passing concern to you, but a serious one. Don’t expect them to do your job for you, but they can be your eyes when you are not there (see 4 below).

Call your cat in gentle reassuring tones so that he may realize he is still near you, and, therefore, safe; this may keep him from wandering farther away.

Ask permission from the neighbors in a five-house radius to access their backyards, even when they are at work. Don’t bother to ask for access to yards with dogs, because no cat would hide there. Obtaining permission to enter other people’s yards (without being mistaken by a prowler) is a huge tactical ad-vantage because tool sheds, decks, porches, and access to crawl spaces are behind, not in front of, houses. Look under structures, behind bushes, up trees, around wood-fence runners and window ledges… Leave no place unchecked.

Carry an unopened can of fishy food. If the cat is spotted, he may respond to the temp-ting sound and smell of a freshly opened can.

Take a pet carrier with you if you think the cat may walk into it or if he may be difficult to restrain in your arms once caught.

  1. Post laminated “Lost” signs in the intersections around your address.

Use packaging-strength clear tape to affix the sign to utility poles — unlike staples it works on metal too. Place the signs at lower than eye level for car drivers to see. (Remember to remove all signs after your pet is found as a courtesy to your neighbors and a signal that the search is over.)

  1. Distribute flyers, i.e., paper copies of the “Lost” sign, to each house or apartment near yours.

If the resident is not in, do not insert the flyer in the mailbox, which is unlawful, but tape the flyer to the storm door or another visible spot by the entrance. Individual flyers give your neighbors a sense of how important your cat is to you; give contact information, a visual description of the missing cat and additional pertinent information. (Keep it short.)

  1. Take a copy of the flyer to the city shelters, humane societies, and neighborhood veterinarians in the event the cat is trapped by animal control or someone else and taken there.

Do not use this wide coverage, however, as an excuse to stop looking. The cat is most likely only yards away from you.

  1. Search online.

Post your missing cat’s description, photo and last location on all social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. While your general news feed is a great place to gain leads, there are specific lost and found pet pages for most towns or areas.

  1. If your cat is hard to catch, set one or two humane traps.

A raccoon-sized trap is most comfortable for an average-size cat. Put one by the house entrance or where your cat was last spotted. Be prepared, however, to catch other cats before yours. Carefully release the unwanted (and angry) guest and start again. But first you will have to wash and disinfect the trap thoroughly to avoid contamination if the previous animal was sick and also because your cat will not walk into a place where another may have urinated or left the scent of fear.

For a baited trap to be effective, remove any other feeding stations. Ask your neighbors to refrain from trying to be kind by feeding your cat. Only hunger will drive the cat into the trap. A pinch of catnip next to the food may make it more enticing.

Also, covering the trap with a towel or blanket makes it more inviting and provides shelter once the cat is inside. Traps must be checked frequently to avoid exposure and prolonged fear of any animal inside.

With the plan outlined above, a cat should be recovered within hours or days of the escape, but be prepared to persevere longer. The search has to be aggressive and methodical. The life of a feral cat is short and hard; death is usually painful. Most feral cats were once owned by people who either abandoned them or “lost them,” which simply means they failed to look for them under the mistaken belief that “Tom will come back when he’s ready.”

Success – Redefined

posted February 14th, 2016 by
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Looking Back

Success – Redefined

 

SuccessThe Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter opened in late April of 2015.  At that time the goal was to find new homes in northeastern Oklahoma for the dogs and cats who would come through our doors.  Six weeks later we realized we needed to redefine our mission.

 

In August we made our first transport to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter in Wyoming. This was quickly followed by transports to Boulder Valley Humane Society and Denver Dumb Friends League.  As of today, 340+ dogs and 85+ cats have found their forever homes – – almost exclusively out-of-state.  The hand writing is on the wall – we save lives via transport.

 

Sooo, when you read this (and share it with your friends), by all means do look at our web and facebook pages to see if we have available dogs and cats.  Don’t be surprised if we only have a few – if any.  However, do visit your local shelters and rescues.  In our area, they include:  Miami Animal Alliance, Second Chance Pet Rescue of Grand Lake and Pryor Animal League.  I know there are others – – the point is one of us will have the pet you are looking for – – please give all of us in rescue a chance.

 

As the Executive Director at PAAS, it is exciting and rewarding to now reach out to area municipal pounds and rescues.  Working with them, we will make a significant impact on the homeless dogs and cats in northeastern Oklahoma.  States with good (and enforced) spay/neuter laws will welcome our dogs and cats.  It’s a win for PAAS, a win for the area and a home run for the families in Colorado and Wyoming who want, need, and adopt.

 

Yes, we’ve redefined success – and it took less than one year!!!!!!

Kay Stout, Director   PAAS Vinita  [email protected]  918-256-7227

SPOT: Saving the Pets of Tulsa

posted January 31st, 2016 by
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SPOT

SPOT

Mayor Announces New Effort to Save Tulsa’s Pets

TULSA – City of Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett announced a new collaborative effort among the City, the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) and other partners with the aim of reducing the number of adoptable cats and dogs put down at the Tulsa Animal Shelter.

SPOTSPOTIn his welcoming address to the 2016 OVMA state conference at the Downtown Doubletree Hotel on Saturday, Bartlett announced the new initiative titled Saving the Pets of Tulsa, or SPOT. The Mayor stressed that many other cities in the nation have achieved goals of saving pets and that it was Tulsa’s time to do the same.

“Tulsans love their pets,” Bartlett said. “Most citizens would be shocked to learn that more 4,000 homeless dogs, cats, puppies and kittens must be euthanized each year. This program will make tremendous strides in saving more of Tulsa’s pets.”

SPOT will combine three strategies to address pet overpopulation in Tulsa: increasing City pet registrations; increasing access to low-cost spay and neutering services; and an education campaign.

“Through this effort, we are implementing some ways to make pet registration more convenient for pet owners,” Jean Letcher, Tulsa Animal Welfare Manager, said. “We are working toward putting increased revenue directly to spay/neuter education and services.”

Letcher estimated that now only about six percent of Tulsa’s pets are registered as required by law, even though the cost of a license is at most five dollars per year. SPOT will facilitate online registrations that pet owners can access from their smart phones immediately after their pet receives the required rabies vaccine. Owners can also access the system online, which can provide annual reminders.

SPOT

Data courtesy of City of Tulsa Animal Welfare

Through donations, the OVMA will be offering statewide assistance for low income Oklahomans to spay and neuter their pets through the Oklahoma Animal Care Foundation. Funds that are specifically dedicated to SPOT will be directed to qualified Tulsa residents.

“Through this fund, qualified pet owners can take their pet to a participating Tulsa veterinarian and have the spay or neutering done for only $10,” said Dr. Christine Kunzweiler, a veterinarian and SPOT founder. “Right now we are working to increase donations directed to the SPOT fund.”

Finally, an education campaign will encourage pet owners to register their pets through the City of Tulsa, make donations to the OVMA fund for spay and neutering assistance and motivate reluctant pet owners to get their pet spayed or neutered.

“Of course, it’s actually illegal to have an unsterilized pet in Tulsa,” said Letcher. “But SPOT is more about reducing the unwanted pet population so that more pets can leave our shelter alive. That’s something everyone wants.”

Here We Go Again

posted January 15th, 2016 by
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Here We Go Again! – A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen
As I sit here and watch this kitten gaze into my eyes, I cannot help but think: “Here we go again!” This little girl came to me on Thanksgiving Day from a litter of three orphans. One kitten was already dead, with mama cat nowhere to be found. As spring approaches, this scenario will play out all too often. Fortunately, this girl and her brother were in good shape and readily took a bottle. Others will not be so lucky.
What can you do? Spay and neuter now before the major mating season begins!
You, the TulsaPets reader, probably think I sound like a broken record because you care about your pets. However, the Tulsa area still has a problem with pet overpopulation. Statistics for 2014 are incomplete as of this writing, but here is the depressing news for 2013 from Tulsa Animal Welfare: 3,785 cats were taken in, and 2,562 were euthanized! This doesn’t even include dogs or animals from suburbs such as Broken Arrow, Sapulpa or Owasso.
Nationally, some progress is being made on pet sterilization. I was excited to read recently in a Wall Street Journal article, “Too Many Dogs: A Simple Solution,” about a new chemical method for males which could be significantly cheaper—as low as $1 per animal. It consists of an injection of calcium chloride into the testicles and requires only a light sedative with no need for anesthesia or incisions. This method has been studied primarily on dogs but could be applicable to cats as well. An extensive study was done in India, and calcium chloride has been used on dogs on the Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota. Closer to home, an animal shelter in Lawton, Okla., has been using it since last spring.
Although the calcium chloride research goes back to the 1970s, it has not been approved by the FDA. It is such a common chemical that it cannot be patented, so drug companies have no motivation to invest the money ($10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal) for FDA approved trials. A few local veterinarians with whom I spoke seemed somewhat ambivalent.
Ruth Steinberger of SpayFirst! says her organization uses calcium chloride, but did not run blindly into the method without first conducting research. They had testosterone tests run at the endocrine lab at Colorado State University. After reading all of the already conclusive research, they still worked on this for months before feeling that they had enough data to support using it in the field. On another front, an approved sterilant called Zeuterin should be available for about $20 per animal to nonprofits.
Regarding feral cats specifically, most experts feel that sterilizing females is more effective than working on males. If a female goes into season, it doesn’t matter how many males in the colony are fixed; one from somewhere will likely find her. Neutering colony males only stops that particular male from being the father; it may not prevent a litter. But another chemical, megestrol acetate, is being tested on female cats. This is added to canned food on a weekly basis. It could be beneficial when a feral colony is being fed but cannot be captured. Apparently this method has been known about for decades, but is being ignored because there is no profit in it.
While a few dedicated researchers continue their studies in new methods, education of the public is the biggest challenge. Not everyone knows about the low-cost spay and neuter clinics available. What’s worse, not enough people care! My hope in writing this article is to bring this problem to your attention once again. When I tell people the sad story of how many cats are euthanized (I prefer the word “killed”) everyday, they are shocked. They cite rescue societies without realizing that they are always overloaded.
Locally, SpayOK is a great resource, with two locations in Tulsa, and StreetCats issues vouchers for low-cost spay/neuters. Both Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and StreetCats have traps available for loan. Please spread the word. We do not need more homeless orphans like the kitten pictured here. Let’s continue to speak out for her and others who cannot speak for themselves.