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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 19, 2019 1:00 am

Editorial

Pet patrol

Stronger penalties in offing for animal abuse

To help

If you have information about the puppy found last month in a trash bin in the 200 block of East Masterson Avenue, call Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control at 427-1244 weekdays or call 449-3000 after 8 p.m. and on weekends.

 

Last year, more than 4,000 people and 600 pets attended the Northern Indiana Pet Expo, presented by the Allen County SPCA to benefit homeless dogs and cats. This year's Expo, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27 and 28 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, will showcase pets from shelters and rescues available for adoption as well as exhibitors offering a range of pet products and services. For more information, go to Northernindianapetexpo.org. 

The plight of an abused puppy found inside a trash bin by a garbage truck driver March 20 has gotten a lot of attention. His broken ribs had healed, but other trauma inflicted on the gray pitbull mix left him blind. Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, which sent out a news release this week in hopes someone could reveal what happened, has been sorting through calls and vetting applicants to adopt the puppy.

“He's still here,” Holly Pasqui-nelli, community relations and education special for the agency, said Thursday.

Staff members are telling potential adopters the sightless dog will pose special challenges. “We're going to provide in-home training” to the adopting family, “and we'll call and check up on him and make sure he's doing well,” Pasquinelli said.

This puppy's story is unusual – though Red River Waste Solutions workers also found a puppy in the trash in March 2018. But Animal Care & Control deals with abused pets almost daily. “Our office went out on 1,400 cases of cruelty or neglect in 2018,” Pasquinelli said.

“We do a lot of education,” she said, so not all calls result in criminal charges. But animal control officers regularly work with police to see that serious abuse and neglect cases are pursued. And those who mistreat animals may soon face tougher legal penalties.

A bill to give those laws more teeth passed both legislative chambers unanimously and awaits Gov. Eric Holcomb's signature. Authored by Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, House Bill 1615 would ensure that more types of animal-cruelty crimes are prosecuted as felonies rather than misdemeanors.

If it becomes law, HB 1615 may help prevent domestic abuse as well because animal abuse is often a precursor to violence against humans, Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control Director Amy-Jo Sites told lawmakers in January. “Having the ability to intervene through enforcement, we may be able to break this cycle of violence and still ensure the animals who have suffered from animal cruelty get some level of justice,” she said.

Sites told of a situation in which a woman fled her home in fear of her husband, who brutally abused her dog in retaliation. Animal control officers rescued the animal, which later had to be euthanized because of injuries. But authorities could only charge the man with a misdemeanor; it would only have been considered a felony if the dog had died during the altercation. HB 1615 would make it a felony to harm an animal in order to intimidate a family member.

Even with enhanced penalties, Animal Care & Control can only protect pets if they know about abusive situations. “If you're looking at an animal and it doesn't look like it's acting quite right, give us a call,” Pasquinelli said. If a pet that may have been neglected or abused suddenly disappears, that could merit a call to the agency, as well. Children, who are often tuned in to such things, should tell a parent or teacher if something doesn't seem right with a neighborhood pet.

The newly strengthened law would cover all types of vertebrate domestic pets, Pasquinelli said. “From a dog to a hamster, it's going to get some protection.”

And let's find out who threw that helpless puppy in the garbage.