|Nine-week-old Bosco stares out the window of a vehicle, waiting for his owner to return. It is a fairly common scene in Carbon County to find animals locked inside hot vehicles without water. Residents should remember that careless acts may be considered animal cruelty under state statute.|
Animal service officials frequently face the difficult task of determining whether a case falls under state animal cruelty laws.
During a training course on Tuesday, Carbon County animal service officials along with several agencies from across the state learned the general guidelines of cruelty cases in Utah.
Deputy John Mulder from the Utah County Sheriff's Department conducted the course and explained to participants in attendance that a fine line exists between what is acceptable behavior and what is prohibited behavior when it comes to animal cruelty cases.
"It is hard to define cruelty. Everyone has a different opinion as to what is cruel and what is not. Therefore, we have the difficult task of deciding what cases break the state's animal laws," explained Mulder.
According to Utah law, cruelty is defined as any act where a human knowingly, recklessly or intentionally neglects an animal. The acts are broken down into separate categories.
The first category defined in Utah statute specifies that a pet owner or care taker who fails to provide adequate food, shelter or care for an animal is violating state law and may be cited.
Although it is difficult to determine what is considered adequate, animal control experts have the authority to make this decision.
Once an animal is in the care of a human, it becomes the responsibility of the owner to provide proper care for the critter.
Proper care means making sure that clean water is constantly available and food is given regularly to the animal.
Providing shelter from the elements is also a factor in the caretaking process.
The second cruelty guideline specifies that a human cannot abandon the custody of a live animal.
State statute prohibits people from dropping off unwanted pets at remote locations and abandoning the animals.
Rather, owners should make reasonable efforts to provide proper homes for animals before giving up custody.
No animal should be abandoned and left without care.
Utah law also states that pet owners have a maximum of two days to dispose of the remains of a dead animal in a proper way.
It is also illegal under state laws to transport or confine an animal in a cruel environment. This includes leaving a pet inside a hot vehicle without ventilation or water.
Carbon County animal service officials receive several calls each year from concerned residents who have found an animal locked in a hot vehicle.
The best advice to pet owners is leave animals behind on trips requiring the animals to be enclosed inside a vehicle for any length of time. Leaving the animals at home will ensure the pets' safety and will reduce the chance of owner receiving a citation from animal control officers.
Physical injuries to an animal are the most obvious form of cruelty. Many pets sustain injury, but veterinarians along with animal control officers can determine what types of injuries are accidental and which are intentional.
Also part of this provision is the responsibility of a pet owner to provide proper medical care for an injured animal. If an animal is injured and does not receive proper care, this is also a form of cruelty.
State law also states that it is illegal for a person train or force an animal to fight with another animal of the same species for game or amusement. Dog fighting is a crime in Utah and so is the training of such sport.
Mulder explained that if a person is found with fight training paraphernalia, they may be cited for animal cruelty even if the act is not witnessed.
This is a difficult law for animal control officials to monitor, but specific guidelines are set to protect animals who are in similar situations.
In Carbon County, the law states that residents must immediately notify animal control officials if an injury or death occurs during a fighting incident which is not intentional.
In addition to this law, farmers are also required to contact officials if an animal is killed while in the act of destroying other animals such as livestock.
"Lots of times, farmers will shoot a dog because they just tore up their sheep. Then the farmer neglects to notify officials and ends up paying for the destroyed animal," explained Mulder.
The animal control officer explained that there is a fine line when it comes to cruelty exemptions. For instance, a farmer may kill a dog if the animal is on it's way to or leaving the area or while committing an act of violence on another animal.
"The farmer is not protected by state guidelines if it tracks an animal down and kills it because they feel the animal may be a threat. There are many different scenarios regarding this act, and each case is treated carefully. It is important to note however, that a farmer may not torture the animal and that they must phone animal control officers immediately after such an incident," Mulder advised.
Animal cruelty acts are set in place to protect the pets that rely so heavily on humans for care. Any violations of these acts are considered serious offenses and will be dealt with accordingly.
The basic rule of thumb that Carbon County residents must remember however, is that animals are a responsibility. Treat them as if they are part of the family.