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How can I help in an animal neglect situation?

It's a large problem and can be scary for people to see happening. Learn key signs to recognize, and how to handle when you are faced with an animal neglect situation.

Animal neglect happens way too often, and it's not always as apparent as you'd think. There are many types of neglect that occur (and might even be in your own neighborhood right now). Since I work in an animal care center, I mostly see the aftermath of neglect situations.  I think the biggest way we can help these animals, is by paying attention to our surroundings and recognizing some telltale signs.

 Let me give you an example. Perhaps you've noticed that a dog in your neighbor’s backyard has been there for a few days. That might not seem like a big deal, right? According to Michigan State Law, dogs that are kept in a yard must be provided with shelter, food and water.  These requirements help the dog stay nourished and safe from the harsh elements of weather changes. If you notice that dog is frequently in the yard, without food, water or shelter, it's time to contact your local Animal Control.

Your first thought might be to bring out some food and water, or make a little 'house' for it to sleep in. This can seem like a happy medium versus getting involved personally. Unfortunately, these types of actions allow the neglect to continue. If another neighbor calls Animal Control to report the pet owner, the officers will come out to evaluate if the dog has proper living conditions. If they see a food & water dish in the yard (even if it's not from the owner), they won't notify the owner about their conduct. This puts the dog at a further disadvantage, because the officers must first issue a warning to the owner before they can physically transport the dog to safer conditions. Without these procedures in place, the animal will wait that much longer before getting the help it needs.

Many Animal Control centers can take your information confidentially to avoid you getting involved. It's extremely important to report any neglect to them and let the officers handle it, instead of you. It may seem mean if you don't help the animal, but in the long run it's much worse for them since their environment can't be changed without the assistance of Animal Control.

Another common result from animal neglect is feral cats and stray animals roaming throughout your neighborhood. This can seem like a very overwhelming problem, because most of these animals aren't spay/neutered, which contributes to animal overpopulation. Again, you might think it’s a good idea to provide food and water for these animals. This merely encourages them to continue their current lifestyle, leaving them susceptible to disease (and spreading it to your pet!) in addition to dangerous conditions such as getting hit by a car, etc.  

The best (and safest) thing to do when you see a loose animal is to call the Animal Control and have them pick the animal up. If you are able to trap the animal in your garage or a carrier, that will make it easier for the officer to transport the animal. At the Oakland Pet Adoption Center, plenty of people come in with stray animals they've found. These animals are dropped off at no charge to you, and during that time we will vet check and evaluate them, to process them into our adoption center.

While most people want to help when it comes to animal neglect, sometimes our first instinct is not the best. Keeping the local authorities involved will not only help keep you and your family safe, but ultimately provide the best outcome for the animal. These animals cannot say ‘help me’ to us. It is up to us to be observant and aware of our surroundings, and to take the necessary precautions to help animals from living a life of neglect.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Alexis Shull March 05, 2012 at 02:58 AM
You are spot on with your point, Patricia. The requirements for animal safety need to be more clearly defined, as well as the public needs to be more aware. We have to act as eyes and voices for these animals- they cannot call out for help, so we must. Often times, animal controls are understaffed or inundated with calls (higher risk areas) so they simply do not have the time to dedicate to each and every call, and unfortunately the animal suffers because of that. Oakland County is working to remedy that, as I'm sure Wayne hopes to as well, but in the meantime we must practice due diligence and consistency in effort to help as many animals as we can currently facing a potential environment for neglect.
karen Mountz March 05, 2012 at 03:16 PM
There is a program for free-roaming cats that you didn't mention. The OAKCATS program is a collaborative effort led by the Oakland Pet Adoption Center (Oakland County Animal Control) in collaboration with the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance and All About Animals Clinic, through the generous support of PetSmart Charities. http://www.oakcats.com/
Alexis Shull March 05, 2012 at 03:40 PM
That's a great point Karen, and a definite resource for the public to utilize. The OAKcats program is a little more specific because it requires a 'colony leader' who can track and digitally provide updates. It has been very successful and OPAC has hit their yearly goal required by the grant. My focus for this article was to provide telltale signs for a resident to recognize neglect, and options they can take for stray/feral animals with minimum involement.
Heather Grace March 08, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I'm curious what steps Oakland county is taking in dealing with neglect/abuse cases? I'm in Pontiac quite often and while I know it was only recently taken over I'm curious if more staff had to be hired to deal with the high volume of issues in that city? I still call in neglect cases but I'm not sure if it's ever addressed.
Alexis Shull March 08, 2012 at 02:29 AM
I do know that animal control has added on more officers since taking over Pontiac, Heather. Unfortunately, OCAC has also taken over several other cities, and probably will take over several more with budget cuts continuing in cities that have their own private animal control. So while there are more officers on staff, essentially there is more workload for each officer. They do their best to attend to every call in a timely fashion, and there are more officers patrolling the higher risk areas. We work to combat these issues additionally by offering vaccine and spay/neuter clinics, in effort to control the large problem with animal overpopulation. That, coupled with continued education on responsible pet ownership to the public, is aimed towards alleviating the large amount of neglect/cruelty cases that overload the OCAC officers.

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