§114‑8.7. Reports of animal cruelty and animal welfare violations.
This statute enacted in 2015 was to provide a point of contact for the general public to report animal related violations. A citizen who feels a violation is occurring in an animal shelter, with an animal officer or a private animal owner can report it to the Department of Justice. The Department will then direct the report to the appropriate agency. As with any investigation, attention to detail and the recording of observations by note taking, photographs and other means is crucial. Of all of the animal investigations performed, animal cruelty will present the most variables. We discuss Investigations in Section 6.
The National Association of District Attorneys (NADA) prepared an excellent publication, “Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Abuse”. This publication is a highly recommended read for animal officers.
It is very common for people to wonder and ask why people inflict pain and suffering on animals. The NADA outlines some reasons below.
Reasons why people are cruel to animals include:
To control people or the animal
Retaliation against people or animals through punishment
Prejudice against a breed
Aggression projection using an animal (animal fighting, target shooting)
Shock for amusement sake
Aggression displacement (the acting out of their own abuse)
None of the reasons above are a defense. The animal officer’s responsibility is to respond to reports or observations of alleged violations, investigate, remove living animals from the abusive environment and obtain the evidence necessary for prosecution.
An excerpt from the NDAA, supported by various studies and reports:
Cruelty to Animals Can Be a Predictor Crime
An impressive collection of literature substantiates the common sense knowledge that those who have a history of repeated acts of intentional violence towards animals are at higher risk for exhibiting similar violence or lawlessness towards people in the future.
Studies have told us that: (1) adults maltreating animals present a risk of abuse to children; (2) childhood violence towards animals may be predictive of future violent behavior and psychopathology; (3) batterers may target and maltreat animals as a way of threatening, coercing, silencing or intimidating their human victims; (4) families may delay or refuse to leave an abusive home out of fear for the pets; and (5) the co-occurrence of multiple forms of violence increases future violence.
As you have the highest probability of being the first on the scene, your knowledge and response to these forms of animal crimes can impact the entire community.
The scope of Chapter 14, Article 47, Protection of Animals defines 4 of the 6 classes of animals as: Amphibia Amphibians are small vertebrates that need water, or a moist environment, to survive. These animals include frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts. Reptilia Reptiles are vertebrates and include lizards, snakes, alligators and turtles. Aves Aves are birds. Mammalia Mammals are warm blooded, have hair and give live birth.
Amphibians and Invertebrates are not included in the animal cruelty statute and excluded in many local ordinances.
This course is designed to introduce you to the basic knowledge needed to become an effective, professional animal officer.
Animal cruelty investigations, evidence collection and court proceedings are labor intensive and very complex and deserving of a course on its own. You will gain much by taking advantage of physical courses offered, further reading and assisting in ivestigations.
There are several organizations, law enforcement offices, experienced animal officers and reading materials you can access to hone your skills in investigating animal cruelty.
As we discussed in Civil and Criminal Procedures, criminal elements must be identified and you bear the burden of proof. Every court will require proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. Stiff penalties, if your ordinance allows it; may provide a course of action aside the courtroom.
The burden of proof is the duty to prove, or disprove a fact.
Beyond a reasonable doubt means the the only doubts are unreasonable.
A preponderance of evidence is enough (weight) evidence making it more likely than not that the fact is true or not true.
Many officers respond to reports of animal neglect and cruelty and issue warnings and penalties, never to return or to follow a practice of only responding when a report is received. Animal abusers have often been abusers before, both to people and animals and many have been victims of abuse. It is common for abusers to return to the abuse once you leave the scene.
Professional officers are proactive in curbing animal abuse by patrolling and visiting the location for welfare checks. Keeping check on the location or circumstance should be a part of your routine. Too often news stories are published about aggressive dogs or neglected animals that were reported to animal officers in the past which were not revisited only to have a greater offense occur.
Animal hoarders represent a different level of animal neglect and deserving of special mention and attention.
The following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:
An individual who possesses more than the typical or manageable number of companion animals.
The individual is unable to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death.
Animal hoarding is a compulsive need to collect and own animals for the sake of caring for them. As the animal numbers increase the hoarder ends up emotionally overwhelmed, socially isolated, alienated and the animals neglected. Their living spaces become unsanitary and cluttered; they form intense attachments to the animals and hesitate or refuse to re home them.
Animal hoarding is very similar to object hoarding in general.
When approached by an animal officer about the numbers of animals or the environment hoarders may respond by cleaning a small space or extend extra care to a few animals and feel they have accomplished what you have asked them to do. Upon returning and requesting more attention to the issues they often become combative.
Studies of animal hoarders show this behavior often begins after an illness, disability or death of a significant other, or other difficult life event and keeping animals guarantees a stable relationship.
Hoarders are predominantly female, over 50 percent are aged 60 or older who live alone. These people are generally well-educated and come from various income levels. Although cats and dogs are the most frequently hoarded animals, all domestic animals are hoarded.
This video takes a look into the reasons why people hoard animals. Animal Planet media provides a series of videos regarding animal hoarding.
Many hoarders will present themselves as a rescue service giving them a role as a person who saves unwanted animals, helping them feel needed and special. Hoarders rarely seek treatment and have a high rate of recidivism. One such "rescue" operated by a man and woman in Hoke County was raided and 600 animals of various species were seized. Many animal were buried throughout the property. This charity was properly registered and received close to $300,000 in 2015 to care for the animals.
Recidivism: Repeating an undesirable behavior after experiencing negative consequences or training to relinquish that behavior; a relapse of criminal behavior.
One of the first steps in addressing a hoarder is gaining the trust of the owner. Many cases have been managed by reducingthe number of animals as a first step. Gaining possession of the animals requires the owner to surrender them.
The perception that the animal agency will euthanize the animals is a challenge you will need to overcome to obtain the signature needed to remove the animals. If you were preceded by another officer or agency who undermined their trust or your agency is perceived as less than professional the trust you are trying to gain will become a bigger challenge.
When a large number of animals are involved, local and national animal welfare organizations can assist. Large organizations such as the ASPCA and the HSUS can assist you with transport, veterinary care and the evidence you may need for a criminal charge(s).
If attempts to remove the animals are successful, the number of animals removed will impact your agency’s resources.
If removal attempts fail, considering criminal charges may persuade the owner to comply.
ASPCA: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals HSUS: The Humane Society of the United States
Both organizations provide webinars and other educational resources for animal officers in animal cruelty investigations.
Typical findings when investigating animal hoarding:
Animals with unattended injuries, illnesses
Animals living in conditions that would justify the element(s) of “unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death”
Animals with symptoms of malnutrition, starvation
These findings may provide the initial evidence needed to pursue: §14-360. Cruelty to animals; construction of section. ...(c) As used in this section, the words "torture", "torment", and "cruelly" include or refer to any act, omission, or neglect causing or permitting unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death. As used in this section, the word "intentionally" refers to an act committed knowingly and without justifiable excuse, ...
If criminal charges are planned, the District Attorney must be contacted and the local law enforcement agency. If you are not a sworn law enforcement officer, felony charges will be pursued by local law enforcement.
Until hoarding as a disease becomes a condition that would support “justifiable excuse” as a defense, hoarders continue to be charged pursuing this statute.
Animal Fighting & Baiting
Animal fighting is known as a blood sport.
While dog and cock fighting are the most commonly known animal fighting crimes, there are many forms of blood sports involving bears, hogs, rats, bulls and other species.
North Carolina law addresses all species of animals in regards to animal fighting. It is a Class 2 misdemeanor crime to engage,promote, spectate or provide property or animals for animal fighting.
Animal Baiting: Setting dogs to attack a captive animal.
Baiting may also include the practice of using a “bait” of food or a scent to attract animals; this is most frequently used in North Carolina to attract the black bear. It is in violation of hunting regulations to bait bear in North Carolina. Any baiting you suspect should be reported to your Wildlife officer.
§14-362.1. Animal fights and baiting, other than cock fights, dog fights and dog baiting.
This statute is specific to animal other than cocks and dogs which are specifically protected by:
§14-362. Cockfighting. §14-362.2. Dog fighting and baiting.
Using dogs to capture, corral or control livestock or other animals is general acceptable in many societies. Using the dogs to kill captive animals for sport may be grounds for a violation of §14-360.
In North Carolina the use of dogs to hunt wild animals is allowed but has many restrictions and regulations.
North Carolina hunting regulations address the use of dogs and animal baiting below:
North Carolina law recognizes two different levels of animal cruelty; one punishable as a misdemeanor, the other as a felony.
The distinction between misdemeanor cruelty to animals and felony cruelty to animals is whether the defendant acted intentionally (misdemeanor) or intentionally and maliciously (felony).
“Intentionally” refers to an act committed knowingly and without justifiable excuse.
“Maliciously” means an act committed intentionally and with malice or bad motive.
“Malice means the desire and intention to deliberately cause harm or death,
Malice can prove to be exceptionally challenging as you will have the burden to prove the defendant’s state of mind. Previous cases alleging malice in animal crimes have involved animal sacrifice, self defense from an animal and actions that caused harm or death to an animal.
§14-360. Cruelty to animals; construction of section.
(a) If any person shall intentionally or cause or procure to be (criminal intent)
overdriven To work to exhaustion: The riding, driving, or loading becomes cruel when more is being demanded of the animal than could reasonably be expected under all circumstances. overloaded An excessive burden wounded injured It isn’t necessary to go further here, is it? tormented Proving beyond a reasonable doubt the intentional tormenting of an animal is challenging and there is little case law to guide the way. Animals are viewed by many as not feeling distress or to a much lesser degree than humans feel, therefore “unjustifiable” and “suffering” are subjective opinions. deprive of necessary sustenance What is required to maintain life
Your challenge in almost every case will be proving beyond a reasonable doubt the act or neglect was intentional.
North Carolina Laws - Animal Control - Animal Protection - Public Health