Princess and Anushka huddled together in the corner of a small
metal cage holding on to the only thing they have left – each
The cats are safe now, but even inside the walls of the Larimer
Humane Society they cannot be protected from their unknown
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
When Xanthe Kilzer was in middle school, she witnessed animal
cruelty in a place she least expected, done by people she least
After classes, she walked out of Broomfield Middle School and
saw a dismembered and burnt cat strewn over her school’s football
“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
When he is walking Paige, his 10-year-old golden retriever,
McKinlay said he sees animal abuse in ways that most people do not
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
* torturing or tormenting
* confining in or on any vehicles in a cruel or reckless
* depriving of necessary sustenance
* failing to provide it with proper food, drink, protection from
weather consistent with the species
* housed in a manner that results in chronic or repeated
* intentionally abandoning a dog or cat
* Prohibits mistreating, abandoning or neglecting an animal to
the degree that the animal’s life or health is endangered.