Abandoning dogs is cruel and criminal

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Many calls have been coming in recently regarding sad stories relating to dogs chained out in the cold, a cruelty that continues every year. Also, two emails came in regarding dogs and one cat that had been left behind when their owners moved. And a neighbor of mine actually went off and left several cats that became feral to survive.

Most of us when we leave the house, whether it be for 10 minutes or an entire day, we have to look at the sad, long doggie faces, convinced they will never, ever see us again. For most of us this is an every day occurrence and our dogs and cats are rewarded with our return every time.

Sadly, some people really do abandon their pets - leave them in a house as they move out, open the car door and push them out into a field or a highway. It is just about the cruelest act that can happen to a pet. Recently, a woman took a carrier out of the car with three little puppies, opened it and pushed them out onto the highway area. These helpless little lives meant nothing, nothing to her. Fortunately a woman saw her and stopped. The woman who abandoned the pups was arrested and charges filed. The puppies are already spoken for after the video went viral.

Here are statistics researched by the Humane Society, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Protection of New Mexico in addition to local ordinances and the New Mexico State Statute laws on animal abandonment:

What Is animal abandonment?

Abandonment laws differ by state, but generally speaking, abandonment happens when an owner or temporary caretaker of an animal leaves that animal in a public or private place (inside or outside) without intending to return for it and without making provision for its continued care.

Taos County's current Animal Ordinance law on animal abandonment:

- Whenever an animal control officer finds that any animal is or will be without proper care because of injury, illness, and/ or incarceration or as a result of the absence of the owner or person responsible for the care of such animal, the officer may enter into the property or premises where said animal is located and may take up such animal for protective care; and in the event of sickness or injury of the animal, upon the instruction of a licensed veterinarian, the animal control officer may take such action as called for to prevent undue pain and suffering, including immediate destruction of the animal.

- It is unlawful for any person to abandon any animal in Taos County.

N.M. State Statute NM1978 30-18-1 30-18-15

Cruelty to animals occurs when a person negligently mistreats, injures, kills without lawful justification or torments an animal or abandons or fails to provide necessary sustenance to an animal under that person's custody or control. Extreme cruelty to animals, a fourth-degree felony, consists of a person intentionally or maliciously torturing, mutilating, injuring or poisoning an animal or maliciously killing an animal. Upon conviction, the court may order a person to participate in an animal cruelty prevention program or an animal cruelty education program, or to obtain psychological counseling for treatment of a mental health disorder

How many animals are abandoned each year?

Because there is no national reporting requirement for animal abuse, there is no way to track the number of abandoned animals each year. However, we do know 6-8 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year. This number includes animals abandoned on the street (found animals) and animals seized after private abandonment in homes or apartments.

Is animal abandonment a crime?

Most states have laws making abandonment of an animal unlawful. It is sometimes a component of cruelty laws.

What are the consequences for animal abandonment?

Consequences vary nationwide. In New York, it is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. If an abandoned animal is found to be sick, injured or dead, cruelty charges may also be appropriate. In these circumstances, forensic veterinary work may be helpful.

How are abandonment laws enforced?

Due to the nature of the crime, it is often difficult to identify and locate the owner or caretaker who has abandoned the animal. ID tags and microchips can sometimes help identify the responsible party. Unfortunately, there are many instances where owners cannot readily be found and charged for abandonment.

What can I do to help?

If the people are your neighbors, friends, family or otherwise, report it. You'll know if someone has moved and left their animal behind. I have received many calls through the years from people who are neighbors and are aware of an animal being left behind. This is extreme cruelty and yes, you are responsible for making the call that will save this life. It doesn't matter if food has been left. It is still abandonment.

Be anonymous, but get someone over there. Call me if you need to but call animal control in Taos County first at (575) 758-2216. I can follow up on it for you.

Always report abandonment, even if you are not sure that is what it is. No one has to abandon an animal. There is help.

For information or to leave a tip regarding animal welfare, contact taosbark@gmail.com or (575) 613-3448.

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