Abusing animals, not accepted

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It is home. It is a small balcony with the floor space about the size of that in a small closet. The space belonged to a dog that lived outside in the summer heat throughout July and August until animal control had its owner take it inside.

The dog, a poodle, could not walk on the balcony without stepping in its own feces. Abby Reynolds, senior in speech pathology, said the smell coming from the balcony was one of the first things she noticed.

“I noticed the poodle when I was taking a walk one night,” Reynolds said. “It was out on some apartment tiny, back porch that was covered in its poop.”

Reynolds said the neighbors had told her the dog had been outside for days. Lauren Strickler, senior in kinesiology, said she also noticed the poodle, which appeared to be very young. She said she lives next to the house where the poodle was living, and it was kept outside for very long periods of time.

“It was disgusting and not healthy,” Strickler said.

After speaking with neighbors, Reynolds said she discovered that multiple calls had already been made to animal control by the time she decided to call.

“We called, but we didn’t do any follow-up,” Reynolds said. “I’m not sure if it’s inside now or what, but after we called it wasn’t outside anymore.”

Even when the weather got to be in the upper 90s, the dog remained outside and barked a lot, Strickler said.

However, she did not make any calls about the dog.

“I personally talked to my roommates and friends, but we decided not to do anything because we didn’t feel it was our business to intervene,” Strickler said. “And I didn’t really know who to call either way.”

Landlord pet policies

Craig Lauppe, president and co-owner of Advanced Property Management, a different property than where the poodle was kept, said pet policies for his company’s properties are created from three different sources: The city of Manhattan Codes Department, the property owner and their company top management. The city of Manhattan has its own regulations that all occupants must follow if they have pets. Property owners help form restrictions and regulations.

“They will allow what they want in their house,” Lauppe said.

The company top management, such as the president and vice president, creates the policies from the information and input from the city of Manhattan Codes Department and the property owner.

“We cannot discriminate against one person over another, so we made a company policy across the board and ask all to obtain to it with the owners making the changes to our company policies if they choose to, as long as it does not breach city code regulations,” Lauppe said.

Lauppe said in the state of Kansas, landlords are allowed to charge half a month’s rent as an additional pet deposit that is refundable to the tenants as long as the house is still in its original condition after the tenants move out.

“Pet deposits are in place due to the fact that pets do cause more wear and tear on a property,” Lauppe said. “It is an additional source of protection for property owners and managers.”

The problem

Willie Davila, supervisor of the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter and Control, said he has seen his fair share of cases of animal cruelty.

“I’ve seen animals in crates left to starve,” Davila said. “The only thing they could eat was the blanket that was next to the bed. I’ve seen dogs left (tied) to a dining room chair in an empty house just to find nothing but fur and a grease spot, and those are cases of people mov(ing) out, they left the dogs behind. One dog got so hungry he ate the other dog to stay alive.”

According to the Kansas anti-cruelty statutes, cruelty to animals means “intentionally killing, injuring, maiming, torturing or mutilating any animal; abandoning or leaving any animal in any place without making provisions for its proper care and failing to provide such food, potable water, protection from elements, opportunity for exercise and other care as needed for the health or well-being of such kind of animal.”

According to the U.S. News & World Report in 2011, K-State was ranked 19 for being one of the best veterinary medicine schools in the U.S. This does not explain why the number of euthanized and dead on arrival numbers are so high at the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter. In 2013, there were 102 dogs that were DOA or non-placeable.

Davila said non-placeable dogs are any animals that cannot be placed in a home, which includes animals “with behavior or disposition that show propensity to attack with little or no provocation, animals that are too ill or severely injured and death is imminent,” and “animals with behaviors that create a health hazard due to problems such as soiling the owner’s bed.”

There were 86 dogs DOA or non-placeable in 2014.

“That’s all in a college town with a very reputable veterinary college,” Davila said. “You would think that the level of education in the type of industry in Manhattan that those things wouldn’t happen here but those things you see on TV they happen here too.”

Lisa Pohlman, the president of the Riley County Humane Society has been volunteering with them since Nov. 2011. As a veterinarian, Pohlman oversees much of the veterinary care for the animals. She is concerned by the increase in the number of animals left to fend for themselves or left in homes for landlords to find “before they starve or die of dehydration.”

“It just shouldn’t happen at all,” Pohlman said.

Why it happens

Animal cruelty and neglect can happen for a number of reasons. When pursuing different animal cruelty cases, Davila said he must look at why the cruelty happened in the first place.

“(Some) people are not ready to own an animal,” Davila said. “Part of it is lack of education, sometimes it happens for lack of IQ and some of it is intentional. When it’s intentional, that’s the heart break.”

Davila said that sometimes opinion on proper care for an animal might differ person to person. If the law does not address an issue regarding the certain care of an animal, Davila steps in. He tries to educate and find a solution, but then it is up to the owner to make a decision based on their resources.

Before any legal action is taken, Davila said that he must find out what the situation is. The first thing he looks for is if the abuse is intentional. Then, he decides if education is in order.

“What is the degree of neglect or abuse that’s happening?” Davila said. “Is there a law that addresses that?”

Davila also said the Fourth Amendment often makes the process of getting an animal out of an abusive situation harder because the court has to take these rights into consideration first. The Fourth Amendment often outweighs the safety of a pet or an alleged violation, he said.

“Sometimes the sad part is by the time it is reported to us, it is too late,” Davila said.

Lauppe said that the instance with the poodle did not need to happen, and he would have allowed the pet inside for a short period of time until a new home could have been found for the pet.

“At no point does a pet or human ever deserve to be hurt or put in harms way, so helping the pet would be my priority,” Lauppe said.

The Humane Society of the U.S. released its 2013 Human States Ranking. All 50 states and D.C. are put into a comprehensive report rating a wide range of animal protection laws. Puppy mill laws are still trying to be improved, and Kansas got a score of 35 percent for its animal protection laws.

Different forms of animal cruelty can result in either being charged as a Class A non-person misdemeanor, or a non-person felony. Upon conviction, a person could serve prison time as well as pay a hefty fine.

What to do

Pohlman said if people suspect an animal is being neglected or abused, they should call Animal Control.

“They are the ones who have the authority to mount an investigation,” Pohlman said. “They should not confront the potential abuser.”

If people can no longer care for their animal, they can contact the Riley County Humane Society or complete their “surrendering a pet” form that can be found on the county’s website. Pohlman does ask that some notice be given before surrendering a pet.

“When we are given plenty of time to help we can usually plan accordingly,” Pohlman said. “That said, we can not accept viscous animals.”

It is important to know the pet policies of a property before purchasing a pet or renting a home.

“I do feel that the price of pet deposits do cause some tenants to choose not to get pets,” Lauppe said. “On the other side, pets are now part of the family so tenants will go out of their way to come up with the deposits to get a pet.”

There are many things to consider before owning a pet beside landlord policies.

“Know what your circumstances are and know that the pet is a good fit for you,” Davila said. “You got to have resources; do your research.”

If the resources are not available to pet owners, there are different options to best cater to the well being of a pet.

“Life is a journey, not a destination, and sometimes life throws at you some curves and that’s why we’re here,” Davila said. “To help you out, to get through things, to give you advice to educate you, but if you do something that you know is wrong and you’re told that you’re doing something wrong and you keep doing it then if there’s a law for it, we’re going to apply that law.”

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