May 022004
 
Authors: Christiana Nelson

Princess and Anushka huddled together in the corner of a small

metal cage holding on to the only thing they have left – each

other.

The cats are safe now, but even inside the walls of the Larimer

Humane Society they cannot be protected from their unknown

fears.

The victims of animal abuse are silent.

Little is known of the two cats’ lives before they were

abandoned at a rest stop just west of Prospect Road on Interstate

25, but Princess and Anushka are not alone.

The Larimer Humane Society received more than 20,000

animal-welfare phone calls in 2003, said Cary Rentola, marketing

and community events manager for the humane society.

“In Larimer County we do see animal neglect and cruelty, but our

biggest concern is animal welfare. Animal welfare checks make sure

animals have food, water and shelter,” Rentola said. “We do have

animal cruelty but it’s not in epidemic proportions.”

Yet, Rigo Neira, the director of animal protection and field

services at the humane society, has a different perspective on

animal cruelty in Larimer County.

“Any of it is a problem – as far as I’m concerned any animal

cruelty in our county is a problem,” he said.

Neira estimated that out of the 20,000 phone calls received by

Larimer Humane Society Animal Protection and Control last year,

more than 2,000 were directly related to animal cruelty.

While community members often report their animal-abuse

suspicions to the humane society, Neira said actual cruelty can be

difficult to prove.

“There is more neglect than we can actually confirm because if

people are not feeding their pets we can usually find that, but the

malicious acts – cruelty, beating and hurting a pet – are more

difficult,” he said. “It is very hard to find bruises on a pet and

they can’t tell you about it, so unless there is obvious injury or

a witness to it, it is difficult to find and nearly impossible to

prove.”

After working with animals at the Mountain View Animal Hospital,

Linda Sanden said even abuse’s long-term effects can be difficult

to see because some of the characteristics of abuse are similar to

the behaviors of an animal that simply does not get enough

attention.

“A lot of animals become fretful and skittish and become

aggressive if they’ve been abused,” Sanden said. “But, sometimes

they just cower and become afraid.”

Rentola agreed and added that abuse’s effects can make

humane-society animals difficult to place in a home.

“The effects are huge, but they are mostly behaviorally,”

Rentola said. “Instead of a friendly, outgoing animal, they are

scared and shy and they cower. They don’t do well with other

animals.”

While the most publicized animal-cruelty cases surround domestic

animals, livestock cruelty makes up almost half of all Larimer

County’s cruelty cases, Neira said.

Maureen McGregor first became aware of livestock cruelty after

visiting the People for the Environmental Treatment of Animals’ Web

site and reading about the ways animals are killed for food.

“I understand that people need to eat meat, but they bash the

animals in the head if they step out of line – they’re just doing

those things because the person is angry, not because the animal

needs to be killed,” said McGregor, a junior liberal arts

major.

Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden said that while the humane

society normally investigates animal cruelty and only contacts

local law enforcement if the society needs assistance, he has heard

of more livestock abuse than anything else.

“Typically, there are more cases of animal neglect and horses

being underfed as opposed to beating animals,” he said.

Rentola attributes the large amount of livestock cruelty,

compared to other areas of Colorado, to the structure of Fort

Collins.

“We have a unique city, it is both a rural and an urban city, so

farm areas are part of our jurisdiction,” Rentola said.

Just as the land in Fort Collins differs, the profiles of people

who inflict abuse on animals are diverse.

“On a local level we haven’t had enough cases to profile, but on

a national level it is usually more often males versus females and

it tends to be escalated for people who have committed certain

crimes,” Alderden said.

The reason for dissimilar abuser profiles may be the range of

animal-cruelty cases and community-member backgrounds in Larimer

County, Neira said.

“There are certainly profiles for classic abuse, but the cases

we deal with range from neglect to physical abuse so we’ve seen

both male and female and people of all ages and backgrounds,” Neira

said.

When Xanthe Kilzer was in middle school, she witnessed animal

cruelty in a place she least expected, done by people she least

expected.

After classes, she walked out of Broomfield Middle School and

saw a dismembered and burnt cat strewn over her school’s football

field.

“I just remember being so incredibly disgusted that someone had

torn – you don’t treat any living thing like that,” said Kilzer, a

sophomore psychology major.

Later, some students from her school were connected to the

abuse, and while Kilzer has never forgotten her first major

experience with animal cruelty, it has made her more aware of

cruelty occurring around her.

“I definitely notice every time I see a dog in a parked car,”

she said. “I always pick up on if it is hot outside or if the

window is open for the dog.”

For Will McKinlay, having a dog has made him more aware of

animal abuse.

When he is walking Paige, his 10-year-old golden retriever,

McKinlay said he sees animal abuse in ways that most people do not

even realize.

“There are little things, like when people are walking a dog

they tug on it kind of hard or hit it a little when it is not doing

what they want it to,” he said. “It makes animals scared of the

person – there are other ways to make a dog behave other than beat

it up.”

An increased concern with animal abuse is directly related to

enhanced awareness from either experience or another method of

realization, such as news reports, Neira said.

“The media has helped make people more aware of things that are

going on,” Neira said. “People are seeing things because we are all

fairly close together in our communities.”

Kilzer’s experiences and awareness of the extremes of animal

cruelty has led her to reprimand her friends for abuse to their

animals.

“When you’re in public people can see you, so people adjust

their actions so they are not socially outcast or so they don’t get

in trouble, but I’ve seen owners kicking their dogs and stuff,

usually at a friend’s house, and I definitely speak up and say I

don’t think it’s right,” she said.

Speaking up on an animal’s behalf is something the humane

society encourages community members to do to stop animal

cruelty.

“Anybody who has a concern with an animal should call the humane

society, we do keep any contact information confidential and we

really need people’s help, especially with serious things,” Neira

said.

Rentola said the community can play a large role in saving

animals from abuse.

Last November, two litters of Labrador puppies were dumped on

the side of a road in downtown Fort Collins.

Citizens saw the puppies running around the city and called in

to the humane society, which dispatched multiple animal-control

officers.

The two litters contained fifteen puppies aged three months and

five months, and while the community report of the crime saved many

of the puppies, it could not save them all.

One puppy fell into drainage ditch and drowned before officers

arrived at the scene; two puppies needed to be euthanized

immediately because of their extreme malnutrition, dehydration and

frostbite; and two other puppies were euthanized because of their

dangerous temperaments, which were likely caused by abuse.

Still, 10 of the fifteen puppies were saved because of community

involvement and work through the humane society, which Rentola said

is a good lesson.

“Instead of coming to us for help, somebody chose the

alternative of dumping these puppies in a street,” Rentola said.

“We want people to use us as a resource for help … there are lots

of different options. We want to help as a resource rather than as

a last resort.”

 

Where to Report Suspected Abuse:

Larimer Humane Society 970-226-3647

Emergencies – Police 911

Colorado’s Current Animal Cruelty Laws

Criminal Code Cruelty to Animals (18-9-202)

Prohibits animal cruelty, which is knowingly or with criminal

negligence:

* overdriving

* overloading

* overworking

* torturing or tormenting

* confining in or on any vehicles in a cruel or reckless

manner

* depriving of necessary sustenance

* beating

* mutilating

* killing

* failing to provide it with proper food, drink, protection from

weather consistent with the species

* neglecting

* housed in a manner that results in chronic or repeated

physical harm

* intentionally abandoning a dog or cat

Agriculture (35-42-109)

* Prohibits mistreating, abandoning or neglecting an animal to

the degree that the animal’s life or health is endangered.

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