We Speak for Them: Animal Cruelty Conference (Part I)

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jun 18, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

We Speak for Them: Animal Cruelty Conference (Part I)


By Judy Kate

 | Wednesday, 18 April 2012 18:58


Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of animal abuse. The authors nonetheless suggest your readership.

A Hacienda Heights high school student recently beat three black-and-white kittens to death with a baseball bat, fracturing their skulls.

A news photo showed them with pain registered on their faces, their mouths open. A man whose girlfriend had left him in terror came after her and stabbed to death a puppy he had given her. A collar was found literally melted into a cat’s neck. The cat had been wearing a collar since he was a kitten, and the owner ignored the fact that the cat was growing.

A dog was rescued with his fur so badly matted that it had grown solid and had blocked the pet’s anus. The dog could not defecate and had severe health problems.

Our columns usually incline toward the amusing, the utilitarian or the cute. That’s because we love animals and so do you. It’s because of this that we want you to read about the 2012 Animal Cruelty Conference held March 29 in the Skylinks banquet hall, coordinated and presented by the office of City Prosecutor Douglas Haubert—the “first of its kind,” as Haubert himself described it. Sometimes, the truth is ugly in the extreme.

The three points of Haubert’s objective were to educate the public on what constitutes animal cruelty, inform people how to report it, and show the link between animal cruelty and other crimes. Presenters besides Haubert included Eric Sakach, HSUS senior law enforcement specialist in animal cruelty, Rescue and Response Team; Deborah Knaan, L.A. County deputy district attorney and Animal Cruelty Case coordinator; and Sgt. Rebecca Johnson of Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS). There were between 150 and 170 attendees packing the hall, which is an indication of passionate community interest in animal welfare, and many of the audience members were as disturbed as you probably were when you read the beginning of this article.

“[To know about] animal cruelty and neglect is important,” Johnson said in a tearful voice during her presentation. “Animals can’t speak for themselves—you are their voice.”

The presentation team described six identified types of animal abuse: neglect, intended, ritualized, bestiality, hoarding and animal fighting (dogfighting and cockfighting), and presented visual and verbal examples that were sufficiently graphic to motivate several people to leave the room, including one responsible enough to bring her child to educate her but not to contaminate the experience with upsetting images. There was also an explanation of the penalties that an individual who has been convicted of abusing an animal could face and legislation either pending or written into law concerning abuse.

It got gruesome immediately. Sakach described hoarding situations and “sport” animal fighting in horrifying detail, with accompanying videos and slides. Hoarders, he said, are not necessarily horrible, evil people nor are they abusers by intent; in fact, they generally think they’re helping or saving the animals they collect. But they do have a mental illness, as was shown in a visual of the house of a real-life Willard. During one animal-cruelty investigation by HSUS and a couple of other entities, a man was discovered to have over 2,000 pet rats in his home—loose pet rats. The situation was televised on a 2011 episode of AE’s Hoarders.

“There was a half-inch of caked rat feces on the floor, holes gnawed in the insulation and gnawed wires,” Sakach said. “Good news—he got therapy, and the rats were rescued.”

When responders arrived on the scene they found 697 cats housed mainly in unsanitary wire pens throughout the 8 acre property. A veterinarian on the scene determined that many of the cats were underweight and suffering from medical ailments such as upper respiratory infections and parasite infestation.

All of the cats were safely removed and transported to an emergency shelter where they will be thoroughly examined by a team of veterinarians and receive any necessary immediate medical care. The HSUS and United Animal Nations will provide daily care for the animals until their custody is decided in an upcoming disposition hearing.

Not all situations turn out as well. Sakach described a home with cats literally melting into the sofa and dogs cannibalizing one another, starving animals pleading for food, and the urine and fecal matter that produce fumes so toxic that the rescue teams have to wear protective gear when entering a hoarder’s home. He said, furthermore, that even with the rescues, there may not be shelter space for the more than 250,000 victims of animal hoarding that are discovered each year.

Hoarding is also costly in the manpower that agencies have to expend: animal control, health and fire departments, mental health, social service and the city or county attorney. Charges and mandatory mental counseling are often necessary.

“As citizens, you’re asking what you can do,” Sakach said. “Well, that’s what this conference is about. Know your neighbors.” Among the things he suggested looking for are overpowering smells of urine, accumulation of trash and, of course, the knowledge that a large number of animals is present in the dwelling.

Dogfighting and cockfighting are premeditated crimes against animals. Both are illegal in California (cockfighting is illegal in all states), both have fines attached, and both take a horribly painful toll on animals. Sakach showed videos of big, beautiful roosters straining against heavy chains attached to their legs and fighting other birds to the death of one or both of them. Furthermore, battling roosters have been transferred to poultry farms where they spread diseases to otherwise healthy birds, and the practice has been linked with spousal and child abuse, illegal gambling, and narcotics and firearm trafficking.
Dogfighting involves all this and more, and with more animal victims other than the dogs themselves. People who own fighting dogs, generally pit bulls, are involved in the same illegal activities as those who own fighting roosters, with the addition of gang affiliation. These are not nice people. It may surprise you, unless you’re a responsible, loving owner of one, that pit bulls are sweet-natured dogs whose dispositions are corrupted by their owners who “train” them even from puppy age. We watched some of the training, fighting, and their results, including the open wounds that are tended to by the owners who staple them shut. Go to our shelter or check the Pet Harbor adoption page http://www.petharbor.com/ and count the number of pitties who overrun rescue facilities—50 percent of ACS’s dogs and 90 percent of the country’s are pit bulls. They’ve been taken from the “trainers” or from backyard breeders. Some have been abandoned on the streets. We imagine that few have been spayed or neutered.

Pit bulls are not the only creatures to be harmed by dogfighting. Children are brought to watch this blood sport and grow up with that mentality. Then there are the “bait animals”—cats, kittens small dogs, gerbils and rabbits that are stolen from yards, grabbed off the street or park, and obtained from “free to good homes” ads. The animals are sacrificed to train the fighting dogs— they may be put in a basket and swung around the dog’s head until the animal smells the prey and rips it to shreds; or they may be chased around a treadmill by the dog until they’re overcome and killed. The lucky ones get rescued and may die a more humane death in a shelter if they’re not taken home by someone.

Nowadays, it’s impossible to mention dogfighting without conjuring the image of Michael Vick. Vick is now by all reports rehabilitated and is now an HSUS community action spokesman against dogfighting. Without further comment or editorial, we want to repeat a story Sakach told. Vick was presenting at an inner-city school when one of the kids in the audience said, “Michael, don’t worry. We know you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Yes, I did do something wrong,” was his response. And this is how celebrity, whatever the reason, can turn stuff around for their community.

Signs of an animal-fighting operation include a number of roosters on a property but no hens, chained or scarred dogs, and paraphernalia like a lot of treadmills. Dog breeding is illegal without proper licensing, and that could be a sign as well, especially if they’re pitties. There is an effort in California to make being a spectator at a dogfight a felony; it’s presently a misdemeanor. It is a felony to engage in dogfighting or own fighting dogs (California legal code 597.5), and there are heavy fines and consequences for the acts. Click here for more information.

In our next section, to be posted next week, you’ll learn about Deborah Knaan’s important contributions as well as legislation as well as the link between animal cruelty and violence to humans. Sgt. Rebecca Johnson will discuss cruelty issues specific to Long Beach and how you as citizens can become proactive as animal advocates.

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. ~ Bradley Miller, individual unknown, but read on every webpage that exists for animal lovers.

Note from Kate: Judy is too modest to say anything, and it would sound better coming from someone else anyway—and who else but me? I was there. Judy is a humane educator and animal advocate who, as a member of the committee that put the event together, was instrumental in its coming into being. At the end of the conference, Prosecutor Doug Haubert thanked a number of people for their assistance at the conference, several of whom are given mention at the end of the second half of this article. He saved the best for last, saying that a special, huge thanks should be given to Judy Crumpton, without whose input and encouragement he may never have considered putting the event together. I know that this is true, as I’ve seen Judy in action, and there are few people who advocate for animals as she does. She deserves every accolade, and then some, given to her that night.

Virtually Pets

Little Ralph was rescued from the streets in Long Beach in December. He had been sleeping in a plastic box under a truck in a car repair shop. There was a filthy towel in the box—his only protection from the cold. Ralph ate out of trash cans, but some nice people left food out for him when they could. It took Ralph’s rescuer two weeks to finally catch him because he was so fearful of people and ran as soon as anyone came too close. He knew every hole and crack in each fence in the area. Little Ralph is a Chi mix about two years old and has been neutered, updated on shots and microchipped. He has also had his teeth cleaned. He gets along great with other dogs but it still very shy. He warms up quickly when he understands there is no harm, and he’ll need someone patient. Please e-mail
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 if you are interested in adopting Ralph. He is in Long Beach and needs a home ASAP.

Here’s an antidote to the topic we just finished. About two and a half years, ago, we posted a photo of a longhaired Chihuahua in our Virtually Pets section. No spring chicken at around 13 years old, Missy nonetheless captured the hearts of Barbara and Keith Cordes, former Long Beach residents who now reside in Oregon. In an October 2009 Pet Posting, we described how Keith leaped into his car and drove all the way down to Animal Care Services to add Missy to the family. Now, not quite yet into her dotage, Missy is enjoying wilderness life to its fullest. The Cordeses sent us photos of Missy, two of which we’ve included, and Keith wrote a long letter, part of which we’ve copied for you:

“Well, here is Missy going on 16 or so. She is doing great except a little slow and a small heart problem. She is on meds for that. Her life up here is great, except for the snow. When the deck has snow on it, she will take only a couple of steps to go to the bathroom. She is so funny about that….She loves going to the Oregon coast with us. When Rileigh, our granddaughter, goes, Missy and Lady [Missy’s new adopted sister] get to ride around in the basket of a three-wheeler. All in all, I thank my wife, Barbara, for the morning she said to me, “Follow your heart,” when I asked her what I should do about Missy in the picture [on the Pet Post]. Thank you both for still keeping little ones like her from the gas chamber.”

That’s neat that the Cordes think that way, but we believe that the full success and most of the thanks belongs with the people who carry it out to the end. Thanks, Barbara and Keith, for letting us know how well Missy’s doing.

Pet Projects

California Spay/Neuter License Plate Effort Running Out of Time

If you have previously purchased one of these plates, the proceeds from which will provide funding for free or low-cost pet-altering surgeries in shelters across California and will also help raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering to reduce pet overpopulation, adoption time is running out. There needs to be a sale of 7,5000 of these plates presold before June 2012 for the plates to be manufactured; if this doesn’t happen, preordered plate payments will be refunded and the plates won’t be sold. Judie Mancuso, president of both Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL) and of the license plate fund, was quoted to say in an Associated Press article that paying for surgeries through license plates makes sense in tough economic times because “it is not a tax and not a fee.” The writer of the article made the excellent point that “in a state where people wear their hearts on their bumpers, a specialty license plate campaign by pet lovers to save animal lives needs saving. With more dogs, cats and cars than any other state, it would seem pet lovers could rally enough support for a plan to end pet overpopulation and cut euthanasia.” We ordered ours way back when. Click here to order one—Judie Mancuso’s fund has made it way easy. There are 3,500 plates to go—and only three months.

BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) Read Along

OC PetExpo, Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa, CA, Friday–Sunday, April 20–22, 10 a.m. until early evening Break out the copies of Marley and Me and Harry, the Dirty Dog! The friendly therapy dogs of BARK will again be listening to kids read at America’s Family Pet Expo. The Expo features everything you need for a happier, healthier pet. BARK will also be giving away free books to kids who read with the dogs.

Book signing and Mini-Sessions for Terri Steuben’s Secrets of a Pet Whisperer: Stop Telling Your Pets to Misbehave

Pussy and Pooch, 4818 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, 90803, Saturday, April 28, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Want to try out Terri Steuben’s techniques? Terri will be signing copies of Secrets of a Pet Whisperer and will also be doing little readings for your own babies! Pets are always welcome there, or bring photos (the cat would prefer that). Call (562) 434-7700 for information.

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