§114‑8.7. Reports of animal cruelty and animal welfare violations.
This statute enacted in 2015 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, by an animal officer or by a private animal owner can report it to the Department of Justice. The Department will then direct the report to the appropriate agency.
In 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation added animal abuse crimes to it's crime database. This information is supplied to the FBI using the Uniform Crime Reports process which is submitted by law enforcement agencies.
Click on the seals below for links to both agencies .
Many animal agencies accept anonymous reports of animal neglect or cruelty. Of all of the animal investigations you will performed, animal cruelty will present the most variables. As with any investigation, attention to detail and the recording of observations by note taking, photographs and other means is crucial. We discuss Investigations in Section 6.
Of all of the questions you will be asked over the years from citizens, friends and family about animal abuse will be, "Why?" This question has a multitude of overlapping answers and one we may not be able to answer to any satisfaction.
To help us investigate and prosecute animal abuse crimes the National Association of District Attorneys (NDAA) has prepared an excellent publication, “Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Abuse”; which discusses a wide range of animal abuse crimes, investigations and prosecution preparation. This publication is a highly recommended read for animal officers. The NDAA outlines some of the reasons why:
Reasons why people are abusive or neglectful 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 of course.
Having some knowledge of the motivations can help you prepare for prosecution, identify signs of abuse and confidently go forward to prevent it.
Animal Cruelty - 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.
An excerpt from the NDAA explains studies have told us that predictors are: (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 when an animal abuse or neglect report is filed, your knowledge and response can impact the entire community. Signs of animal neglect or abuse in a household where other indicators of domestic abuse or neglect are observed can be reported to Social Services, Health Departments and Law enforcement agencies. Your inter agency cooperation will be appreciated. Health Departments, Social Services and other human health and safety agencies often report signs of animal abuse to animal control.
Here is a short video regarding violent criminals who briefly discuss past cruelty to animals prior to committing violent crime.
The 5 Freedoms
A proactive approach towards the reduction of animal abuse and neglect is abiding by the 5 freedoms. The United Kingdom Farm Animal Welfare Council developed these five principles of animal welfare in response to a government report on the care of animals in the livestock industry. These principles have been adopted by international and national animal welfare organizations. North Carolina's Animal Welfare Act included these principles along with most animal care agencies and organizations.
Freedom from Hunger and Thirst By ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
Freedom from Discomfort By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Freedom to Express Normal Behavior By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
Freedom from Fear and Distress By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
As we discussed in Section 4, definitions of terms are defined within the law or part thereof that they refer too. We must use those definitions only when interpreting and applying the law.
North Carolina's Criminal Code, 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.
Understanding Animal Cruelty Law in North Carolina
As with any other terminology found in law, each has a distinct interpretation. Let's now take a look at our animal abuse statute terminology
North Carolina law recognizes two 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 the burden of proof is to prove the defendant’s state of mind.
Previous cases alleging malice in animal crimes have involved animal sacrifice, unnecessary defensive actions against an animal and actions that caused harm or death to an animal. Animal cruelty investigations, evidence collection and court proceedings are labor intensive, 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 investigations.
A simple internet search will reveal 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 inCivil and Criminal Procedures, criminal elements must be identified and you bear the burden of proof in animal cruelty and other prosecutions. 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 from 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 up, only responding when a report is received. Animal abusers often have 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 locations 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 Abuse and Animal Neglect
To abuse an animal is to intentionally inflict unnecessary pain. "...overdrive, overload, injure, torment, kill..."
To neglect an animal is to fail to provide the necessities. "...deprive of neccessary sustenance..."
Neglect of an animal can certainly result in animal abuse. Neglecting to loosen a puppy's collar allowing for growth results in an imbedded collar causing injury.
North Carolina's state laws pertaining to animals do not address the care of privately owned animals. Most ordinances define abuse. Many local ordinances address animal neglect by regulating the care an animal should or should not receive.
One of the intentions of the City of Charlotte's animal ordinance is to
...(4) Protect animals from abuse or conditions harmful to their well-being;...
The ordinance prohibits abuse and further regulates animal care by defining neglect as: ...(4) Fails to provide adequate medical attention for any sick, diseased or injured animal he owns, possesses, or harbors;... ...(5) Keeps any animal under unsanitary or inhumane conditions which are detrimental to the animal's health and general welfare or fails to maintain a condition of good order and cleanliness which reduces the probability of transmission of disease;... ...(9) Fails to provide an adequate shelter for an animal he owns, possesses, harbors, or encloses, wherein the animal can be protected from extremes of weather (heat, cold, rain, etc.) and allowed to remain dry and comfortable during inclement weather;...
Read your local ordinances and identify sections regarding animal abuse and animal neglect.
Abuse: An intentional action resulting in unnecessary physical, emotional or mental pain. Neglect: An omission or failure to do something that is required.
Animal hoarders represent an unusual category of animal neglect and deserving of special mention and attention by animal officers.
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 and helps 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. Cases can be managed by reducingthe number of animals as a first step. Gaining possession of the animals requires the owner to surrender them and will be your challenge.
The hoarder's perception that the animal agency will euthanize the animals is another 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 larger 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 voluntary removal attempts fail, considering criminal charges, if warranted, may help persuade the owner to comply.
ASPCA: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals HSUS: The Humane Society of the United States
Both of these organizations provide webinars and other educational resources for animal officers involved in animal cruelty and/or hoarding 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.
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.
In 2009 the crime of dog fighting became a felony offense in all 50 states. Dog fighters are classified as:
Professional Street Fighters
The primary attraction to dog fighting is greed, seconded by the need to gain status within the fighter's community.
Dog fighting is a gateway crime for drug, weapon, gambling and animal cruelty crimes. Young people drawn to dog fighting are exposed to drugs, violence and perpetuate this criminal activity.
Almost all activities associated with dog fighting are classified as a Class H felony in North Carolina.
These activities include Instigating Promoting Conducting Employment Providing a dog(s) Providing property Profiting Spectating
North Carolina law §14-362.1. Animal fights and baiting, other than cock fights, dog fights and dog baiting addresses other species of animals used in animal fighting except the cock and dog and is classified as a Class 2 misdemeanor crime.
The ASPCA provides free training for law enforcement to combat dog fighting. You can order a free toolkit and sign up for free training webinars here.
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.
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:
§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.
FBI data collection https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2016-nibrs-data-released
North Carolina Laws - Animal Control - Animal Protection - Public Health