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Saving Nadia

posted April 7th, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Saving Nadia

NadiaBy Nancy Gallimore

I woke up this morning with a little black nose pressed into my neck. Nadia, my new foster puppy, apparently decided it would be a great idea to sleep in the human bed last night. I hug the puppy to my chest, and she sighs in contentment. With her sigh, the sweet, distinctive aroma of puppy breath fills the air around us, and I breathe it in, cherishing the scent that will turn into dog breath all too quickly.

Itwas only about a month ago that this happy, cuddly pup was just a small, dark shadow, standing lost in the middle of the road. The moment my Jeep made the turn toward home, the shadow darted away to hide in the bordering brush and trees. I barely saw the movement, but I knew—it was a dog.

I’ve seen it too many times—a dog or cat blindly bolting for cover because this unfamiliar situation into which it has been plunged seems to be filled with nothing but danger and fear. This road, the peaceful country road that takes me home, is apparently a favorite spot for people who want to abandon unwanted animals. It’s a quiet, somewhat hidden side road, but it has just enough homes along the way to pacify a guilty mind—to allow the “I found him a home in the country” lie to have a hope of validity.

I kept my eyes focused on the point where I had seen the little ghost dog leave the road. I slowed as I reached the right spot, and I scanned the brush for any sign of my new friend. The late afternoon sun slanted bright beams into the camouflage of tall grass, weeds and trees, and as I searched, I finally caught a glint of wide, terrified eyes.

She was crouched tensely against a tree trunk beneath some fallen branches, her little face and body tight with stress and panic. Her eyes were round with fear, and every muscle in her body was ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Her soft brindle-hued coat allowed her to easily melt into the wooded background and growing shadows. If she decided to move farther into the brush, I would quickly lose sight of her. Though I wanted to rush in to whisk her away to safety, any sudden movement would have closed the door of opportunity.

There is an art to helping frightened stray animals. A panicked dog or puppy seems to revert to a primal state where raw survival instinct replaces any previously known domestic inclinations and responses. This is the moment when the human has to abandon the notion of how to respond to a pet animal. All of the baby talk and promises of cookies bounce off of terrified ears and a numb heart.

So I parked my Jeep and walked a bit down the road from the puppy, keeping myself at an angle to her but always    keeping her in my peripheral vision. She,  still crouched and tense, did not take her eyes off of me, the potential predator.

I reached a spot about 5 feet down-road from the pup. Her hiding place was about 8 feet off the road, so I was far enough away that I wasn’t putting pressure on her. I sat down in the weeds and gravel because dog rescue never manages to take place in a comfortable location.  Again I kept my body at an angle to the puppy instead of facing toward her.

Well-meaning humans really tend to get it wrong when trying to approach a scared dog. We usually go straight at them, looking directly into their eyes. We immediately thrust a hand toward its face. We lean in and push our faces toward them, all the while babbling in a high-pitched, loud voice. Imagine yourself in a position that is about a foot or so off the ground and how that feels—not pleasant.

Then, we tend to ignore all of their “please don’t pressure me” signals. They glance away. They lick their lips. Their ears will be tense and generally pressed back. The whites of their eyes show. These are all signals that say, please, please back away, but most humans don’t know how to read them. This is how rescue opportunities are lost—or worse, how humans end up with a nasty bite.

So there I sat, glancing sideways at the puppy, talking to her in a low, soft voice, tossing bits of beef jerky near her hiding spot (well, sure, I always keep something enticing in the car!). After about five minutes, the grass rustled, and the young dog cautiously reached out to hungrily snap up a bite of jerky.

Ah, progress. Very, very slowly, I scooted a little bit closer to where the pup sat, watching. Then I just held steady again. I kept my body loose and relaxed. I stayed at an angle to the puppy. I did everything I could to communicate a message that said, “I mean no harm.”

I tossed more jerky, this time not quite so close to where she hid. She crept out to gobble a few bites and then watched me warily, very ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Cars passed behind me. Most ignored me completely; some slowed to see what I was up to. I just sat and prayed they would not stop to help. Any added pressure from the human world would send this puppy racing into the brush. I needed a “please ignore the crazy lady playing in the weeds” sign.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress toward the puppy with a non-stop shower of yummy jerky (I can’t lie… I had a few bites myself), I decided to take the pressure completely off. I scooted slowly away from her and then got up, still in slow-motion and walked back toward my car.

What I hoped would happen, did.

Trailing about 4 feet behind me, a young, thin, frightened puppy followed. She still wasn’t sure about me, but I was the best thing she had found in this big, scary world, and while she wasn’t ready to run into my arms, she sure wasn’t ready to let me go either.

As long as I stayed steady and didn’t move too quickly, I was about to see a puppy make a very difficult choice—the choice to trust this human.

I looked sideways at my little shadow and asked if she might like to come home with me. Her reply was to crawl underneath my Jeep and plop down. Oh, great. First, I got to scoot around in gravel and itchy weeds, now I would know the joy of lying on my belly on the asphalt and gravel under my car. No matter. She was well worth it.

So I stretched out on the road and scootched my way under the Jeep. I would like to say a public thank you to my very significant other, Jim, at this moment for putting a little lift kit on the Jeep. It sure made the scootching much easier. Scootch, by the way, is a technical term that anyone who rescues animals in the field knows all too well.

Now I’m lying on my belly, under my Jeep on a thankfully not busy stretch of road. I extended my fingertips to offer another little bit of jerky. She gently took it from me and swallowed it without even chewing. This was one hungry puppy.

Then I reached out to lightly tickle the side of her neck with my fingers. At this point, I would like to issue another public thank you for the combination of my mom and dad that gave me freakishly long arms. They come in darn handy.

While lightly petting her with my fingertips, I finally saw a change in the puppy’s posture. Her eyes softened. Her ears lowered and relaxed. She exhaled with a distinct, little sigh. This puppy was making a choice to trust me.

I will tell you that when I catch frightened little dogs like this, I do initially take hold of them by the scruff of their necks. That may sound rough to some, but I have one chance to get it right, and I can’t risk a struggle or a fear-inspired bite. It’s important to be very careful when approaching a stressed animal that may feel cornered or threatened. I have found that most small dogs, especially young puppies, will go very still when you take hold of the loose skin on the backs of their neck. Their own mothers know this. It is not painful, and I don’t use this little handle for long, but it can be effective for safely scooping up a scared puppy.

I rubbed the puppy’s neck, and then I gently took hold of her scruff. Together, we scootched out from under the Jeep, and I quickly hugged her close, promising her softly that everything was going to be OK now. The pup quickly decided that I was her port in the storm. She pressed into me without a struggle, completely surrendering her fate into my hands.

The once scared, starving, lost puppy quickly became happy, secure and very friendly. She now has dog friends that play with her. She has soft beds for snuggling. She has many arms that love to hug her. She has all of the food and treats she could ever hope for even though she still inhales every meal as if it might be her last. She has a name, Nadia, earned because she is very agile and loves to tumble.

Most importantly, she has a future.

Nadia is learning skills every day that will ensure she can be successfully placed with a loving family. She is a dear, gentle, smart little girl. Someone will be lucky to love her. I can’t wait to see that match happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to teach her where she should potty and where she shouldn’t. We’ll talk about Jim’s house shoes and why they really aren’t a chew toy. We’ll go for car rides and walks. We’ll approach new things and new situations together as she learns to be confident. We’ll have great fun together.

I will enjoy our snuggle time and her sweet puppy breath. And when she places in a new home? Well, I have whispered in her ear every single day since she arrived that even after she finds her perfect family, I will always, always be right here if she ever needs me.

And I will.

 

Author’s note: The methods I outline here work for me, but I have a great deal of experience handing animals and have been involved in animal rescue for decades. I encourage anyone approaching a frightened or injured animal to exercise great caution. If you are unsure, call the animal shelter or a rescue group for assistance.  No one needs a bite from a stray animal.

I am pleased to report that Nadia’s story does have a “happily ever after.” She has been welcomed into a wonderful home where her life lessons continue. She is safe; she is loved, and she loves her new human. Here’s hoping the same for all of the Nadias out there.

Oklahoma Standard

posted April 4th, 2016 by
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Oklahoma Standard

 

Oklahoma StandardOklahomans set the Oklahoma Standard for rescue following the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.  The rescue efforts truly showed Oklahomans at their finest and proved what can happen when everyone comes together for a common goal – to find survivors and account for everyone

 

Oklahoma City voters approved MAPS 1, MAPS2, and MAPS3 –  civic leaders and citizens worked together to present a well-thought-out, unified, opportunity to change the face of OKC.  Today Oklahoma City is recommended as a destination city in travel guides.  I can remember when they rolled up the sidewalks by 7:00 every night – there was nothing to do, see, eat, enjoy, attend.  Not so today.

 

We can set the standard in rural Oklahoma for responsible pet ownership.  At present, hundreds of rescues, individuals, and municipal shelters daily face the sad fact that wonderful, adoptable, lovable animals do not get a chance to live because they are homeless or unwanted.  This past weekend, PAAS transported 13 to Denver Dumb Friends League (don’t let the name fool you), held a successful PetSmart adoption event (13 adoptions) on Saturday at the Stapleton PetSmart in Denver and have two living in a Colorado foster home.  Hundreds of dogs from rural. Oklahoma were transported by car, van, transport bus or plane.  They shared one thing in common  – they were homeless in Oklahoma, but they wouldn’t be once they left the state.

 

When you work in rescue, there are dogs that speak to your heart and you’re forever changed.  Some of them, for me, have been Blackie, Brownie, Megan, TuffTuff, and Daisy.  Look in the mirror, talk with your friends, figure it out, then get together with others.  We can set the Oklahoma Standard – – YES, WE CAN.

Lost Pet Found

posted March 30th, 2016 by
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Lost Pet Found

By LaWanna Smith

An action plan for dealing with every pet owner’s worst nightmare

It was a warm afternoon when the faint sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. I had just arrived home after running a quick errand, and my dogs greeted me at the back gate as I pulled in the driveway. Well, all but one furry face; Baxter, my 10-year-old Shepherd mix, was missing.
An unsettling feeling passed through my stomach as I recalled hearing the thunder. Baxter had always been afraid of storms and other loud noises, but the approaching storm was still too far away for my husband to hear it from inside the house. I did a quick search of the property and found no sign of Baxter. Previously, when a storm had panicked him, he jumped the fence, but he was still nearby and came running right back when I called. But not this time.
Trying to stay calm, I got into my car and began driving our walking path in the neighborhood with no luck. After about 30 minutes of searching, I was officially scared.
This lost dog story does have a happy ending. After 48 hours of canvassing the area, posting 100-plus signs, listing Baxter on numerous websites, placing an ad in the paper and putting more than 250 miles on each of our two cars, we brought Baxter home—tired, full of fleas and pretty scared, but otherwise fine.
Over the course of two days, he had traveled about 10 miles that we could track, though likely more. We were able to follow his route by the calls we received in response to our signs. Ultimately, a very kind person responding to one 8” x 10” sign led us straight to our boy for a happy reunion.
Unfortunately, not all lost pet stories have a happy ending. Statistics show that one in every three dogs will become lost in its lifetime with only a small percentage recovered.
Your immediate actions upon discovering your pet is missing can be the difference between success and heartbreak. Following is a list of helpful tips for recovering a lost pet:
Act fast.
It is a fallacy that pets will find their way home on their own. By immediately beginning your recovery process, your odds of finding your pet increase greatly. Get out on foot; walk your neighborhood and knock on doors. Dogs tend to travel while cats tend to hide out, generally fairly close to home. The more people know to keep an eye out for your pet, the better.
Check the likely spots. Do you and your dog have a normal walk you take in the area? Is there a park or a house with other dogs your dog likes to visit? Are there neighborhood kids your dog enjoys? Check all the likely “fun spots” first. For lost cats, search the area around your home carefully and then expand your search to likely hiding places around neighboring homes (with permission, of course). Sometimes use of a humane cat trap with a little yummy food in it will do the trick. Check with your animal shelter to see if you can borrow or rent a trap.
Enlist help and post signs!
Have someone start making fliers and signs featuring a current photo of your pet while you do your initial search. Make sure your cell phone number is included on your signs, so you can be reached immediately at any time of the day or night. Keep your cell phone battery charged!
Keep your signs simple and the text large. Your signs must be very legible. Passing motorists must be able to read them quickly and easily. A good tip for keeping your signs fresh and waterproof is to put each flier in a clear, gallon-sized zip closure baggie.
Give fliers to all of your neighbors and post signs at all entrances/exits to your neighborhood. Ask permission to post signs in yards near intersections. Give fliers to your mail carrier and any delivery people who happen to frequent your neighborhood. Also, post signs at all major intersections in your search area.
Start working in a circle from the point where your pet was lost. With each 24-hour period that passes without recovery, expand your sign placement another mile in each direction. Never think your pet “won’t go that way” or “won’t go that far,” especially with dogs. You might be amazed how quickly four legs can travel.
Post notices at all local veterinary clinics, grocery stores, community centers and any other public business that will accept a flier. Be sure to hit all animal-based business such as pet supply stores, training schools, dog daycares, boarding kennels, etc. People who love their own pets are more likely to notice and offer assistance to a stray animal. Place an ad in the lost and found section of the newspaper immediately. People who find a stray pet often look there first.
Take your search online.
Modern technology is a great thing, and now your computer or smart phone can provide the key to locating your lost pet. A quick post to Facebook, on your general feed and on specific lost and found pages, can yield great results or leads. Twitter can work similarly. Websites such as findtoto.com offer phone services (fees specified on the site) to contact people in your area to notify them of your missing pet. This can be a fast, effective way to spread the word. Local rescue groups also offer pet lost and found listings.
Check with local shelters and organizations.
Visit local animal shelters and notify all animal rescue organizations. File a lost pet report with every shelter in your vicinity and visit the nearest shelters daily if possible. Many shelters are only required to hold animals for a 72-hour period before they can put them up for adoption or authorize euthanasia. You cannot rely on calling to ask if your pet is at the shelter. The OKC Animal Shelter alone houses hundreds of animals, and it is virtually impossible for the person answering the phone to know for sure whether your pet has been checked in that day or not. Plus, only you can truly identify your pet.
Do provide all animal control agencies and rescue groups with an accurate description and a clear photo of your pet, along with all of your contact information. To locate contact information for other area shelters and rescue groups, refer to the Directory portion of www.okcpetsmagazine.com.
Use Caution.
If someone claims to have your pet, meet in a public place. Do not give out your home address and do not agree to go to the home of an unknown person. Ask them to meet you at a local veterinarian office, pet supply or other public place to return your pet. Be wary of pet recovery scams. When talking with someone who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly. If the caller does not include specific identifying marks or characteristics, he may not actually have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who ask you to give or wire them money for the return of your pet. It’s OK to offer a reward, but it can attract people with less than honest intentions.
Don’t give up your search! Animals that have been lost for weeks and even months have been reunited with their owners. Keep the word out there.
And once you find your pet, collect all of the signs you have posted. Leaving up signs once a pet has been found is not only pollution but also unfair clutter for those people who still have missing pets.
Proper ID
Of course, keeping proper identification on your pet at all times is pertinent to a speedy reunion in a lost and found situation. A collar with vet tags, city license and a personalized tag will help keep your pet safe. However, collars can be lost, so it is recommended to talk to your veterinarian about permanent identification such as a microchip. A chip about the size of a piece of rice is injected under your pet’s skin in the shoulder region. When a scanner is passed over the site of the chip, it pulls up an identification number that leads to all necessary information for locating that animal’s rightful owners.
Even under the most protected circumstances, pets can slip through open doors, sturdy fences can be jumped or crawled under, and gates can be left open by workmen or kids. If the unthinkable does happen to you, remember that a good plan and quick action can lead to a safe and happy recovery.

Toxic Food for Dogs

posted March 28th, 2016 by
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Toxic Food

Toxic Food for Dogs

It’s hard to resist tossing your dog a few scraps after dinner, but you might want to reconsider. Did you know that some human food is dangerous – or even fatal – for your pooch?

Toxic Foods for Dogs 2

 http://www.gapnsw.com.au

Boren Veterinary Hospital

posted March 21st, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Boren Veterinary Hospital – Preventative Care to Pacemaker Surgery

Boren Veterinary Hospital at Oklahoma State University Provides a Full Spectrum of Animal Healthcare

By Bria Bolton Moore

Photos by Gary Lawson, University Marketing

 

In the wake of a May 2013 tornado that whipped through the Sooner State, Evie was found wandering the streets of Shawnee, Okla. 

The 2-year-old black and tan Shepherd was one of 60 animals brought to Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital in Stillwater following the tornado.

“We had several clients where, at the moment, they felt like they had lost their pet, but it was here, brought to OSU by a Good Samaritan,” said Dr. Mark Neer, DVM and director of the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital at Oklahoma State University. “There’s no words you can say to describe that feeling where they thought everything was totally hopeless, and it turned out they had their pet back and also had it back healthy.”

Following the storms, the veterinary hospital treated 22 dogs, 15 cats, 11 horses, four woodpeckers, two guinea pigs, two birds, one donkey, one pot-bellied pig, one chicken and one turtle. Although many were reconnected to their owners, Evie was never claimed. After heartworm and tick treatment, Evie was adopted by University staff member

Lorinda Schrammel and went on to become a member of Pete’s Pet Posse, a group of trained therapy dogs at OSU. Evie is now schooled to provide comfort to people in nursing homes, schools or even those who have been through traumatic experiences like tornadoes.

Since its establishment in 1948, the hospital and College of Veterinary Medicine have worked toward outcomes like Evie’s: restored health and positive pet/owner relationships.

For more than 30 years, the teaching hospital and clinic were located in Oklahoma State’s McElroy Hall. Then, in 1981, the Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital opened. Today, the hospital is just one of a collection of buildings and facilities that make up the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Dr. Neer said the hospital’s veterinarians   see about 15,000 cases a year in the 145,000-square-foot facility. About 12,000 are small- animal cases tending to dogs, cats, birds   and others.

“We see everything from birds to pocket pets to reptiles,” Dr. Neer said.

About 3,000 of the cases are focused on caring for large-animal patients like horses, cows, sheep, goats and swine.

Dr. Neer said the staff continues to see more and more animals each year. In fact, in the last three years, the caseload has grown almost 30 percent per year.

Dr. Neer said a common misconception is that veterinary students are the ones providing all the pet care. However, an entire team cares for each patient with the over-sight of a faculty member who is a veterinary specialist.

“An important thing for people to under-stand is that when they bring their pet here, especially when it’s in the hospital, we have a team of caregivers, which include a faculty member (a specialist), an intern, a resident, a registered veterinary technician and a veterinary student,” Dr. Neer said. “So, you have a team of four to five people that are involved daily in the care of the pet, so they get a tremendous amount of one-on-one TLC from that whole group. It’s not one person; it’s a whole team providing that pet care.”

Although the hospital has an active community clinic providing primary care for pets in and around Stillwater, most of the   animals seen at the hospital are there to be examined by a veterinary specialist such as a cardiologist, ophthalmologist, radiologist or oncologist. Most of these clients and their pets are referred to OSU by their home-  town veterinarian and travel from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, northern Texas and across Oklahoma to seek the expertise of specialists like Dr. Ryan Baumwart, DVM, a veterinary cardiologist.

On a typical weekday, Dr. Baumwart begins his morning by checking to see if there were any emergency transfers to the cardiology department overnight. Then, he begins rounds, checking on the patients currently under his care. After that, around 8 a.m., there’s usually a training, lecture or presentation focused on equipping fourth-year veterinary students. About 9 a.m., Dr. Baumwart begins seeing cases with students. For the most part, he’s seeing scheduled clients “where their dog or cat might have a heart murmur or have passed out, and they thought it might be due to a heart condition,” Dr. Baumwart said. “We end up looking at their pet and doing some additional testing. The majority of testing that I do diagnostically is ultrasounding the heart or echocardiograms. That’s the bulk of my day—trying to figure out what’s wrong with the heart.”

Dr. Baumwart said the majority of the patients he sees are dogs and cats, and   while most of the cardiac treatments are medical, some are surgical, like pacemaker implantation surgery.

“We just put a pacemaker in a cat yesterday, which is pretty uncommon to put pacemakers in cats, and we’ve put two in [cats] in the past couple of months,” he said.

Dr. Baumwart said most veterinarians don’t have a board-certified specialty, but he wants pet owners to know that specialty care is available if they should ever need it.

“I have two responses when I tell people what I do,” Dr. Baumwart said. “One is, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. I can’t believe you get to do that. That’s awesome for the owners and clients.’ Then, the other response is, ‘Who would take their dog to a cardiologist?’ We’re here for that first group of people—if they ever get into a situation where they want to take it further to get some more information or get some treatment options or pursue a surgical option, that’s what we’re here for.”

Although Dr. Baumwart has worked at other clinics and hospitals, he said the caring nature of everyone, from the receptionist to the technical staff to the doctors, makes OSU a special place.

“I think there’s that true caring about people and their animals, and people want that,” he said. “A lot of the animals we see are people’s kids. For the most part, people really care about their animals, and they want to see that from us. And I think that’s probably a big thing that Oklahoma State has that I love and the reason I came back.”

Shawn Kinser fell in love with veterinary care in high school while working for a clinic cleaning cages in his hometown of Boswell, Okla. Fast forward about a decade, and Kinser is now a fourth-year veterinary student, learning about different disciplines through three-week rotations in the hospital.

Kinser has cared for numerous animals that remind him why he loves his work. However, a 4-week-old kitten holds a special place in his training memories. While away on a clinical rotation in Amarillo, Texas, Kinser was part of a team that cared for a stray kitten with a broken leg.

“I was able to participate in the surgery to remove a front leg from the kitten,” Kinser said. “The surgery went very well, and the kitten is currently with one of the staff members who adopted the kitten. We were able to give the animal a fighting chance for a good life.”

Kinser also recently helped care for a Doberman Pinscher with cardiac disease. He said the close relationship between the owner and dog was special to witness. 

“Seeing the human-animal bond displayed so well like that makes me humbled to know that we can nurture that and contribute to strengthening that bond and keeping that bond intact,” he said.

Whether providing care for strays like Evie, someone’s beloved best friend like the Doberman Pinscher, a wild animal brought in by a resident do-gooder, or Oklahoma State’s Spirit Rider horse Bullet, the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is committed to providing the best animal care possible.

How A Cruelty Case Works

posted March 15th, 2016 by
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How A Cruelty Case Works and What Every Citizen Can Do

By Ruth Steinberger

When an animal is known to be suffering due to cruelty or neglect, a call to law enforcement should be our first course of action. Many people are unsure of whom to call or what to expect, and citizens across Oklahoma even have wildly differing tales of how a case was handled by their local law enforcement agency or prosecutor’s office. Indeed, some people describe a swift response by a deputy who came out immediately and took action, and others have been horrified to see an animal in their community literally starve to death while their complaints were seemingly ignored.
Some citizens have complained that law enforcement acted like they were doing something wrong to make the complaint, and instead of getting help, they became “the bad guy.” It is necessary to understand what law enforcement agencies can and cannot do, what citizens should expect, and what you can do if you feel that cruelty concerns remain unanswered.
A cruelty complaint needs to be directed to the correct agency where it will be investigated, and if warranted, will proceed to a prosecutor’s office and into court. From the time of the complaint to the conclusion of a trial, Oklahoma’s laws are crafted to protect animals from cruelty, neglect, abandonment and more. As concerned citizens, we need to demand that enforcement of cruelty laws be forefront in the discussion of compassion and public safety. Only through grassroots advocacy will animal cruelty join other issues that have evolved into the forefront in the last four decades, including domestic violence, child abuse and drunk driving. Cruelty is a felony in Oklahoma; that means it is a crime in every single jurisdiction in our state.
In Oklahoma, the complaint should go to a police department, sheriff’s office or an animal welfare division of a municipal shelter designated by the city to handle cruelty complaints. Private organizations are not commissioned agencies; they may advise and assist citizens but lack the authority to take action beyond what citizens may themselves do.
The police dispatcher forwards calls for appropriate action; always request a call back so you can speak with the undersheriff, a captain or deputy. Have the correct location that the complaint is about, a description of the animals and other details. According to the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, most Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have less than one half of the national average level of staffing; it is less likely that a location will be found if an officer has to drive around to look for it. Anonymous complaints may be made regarding any felony, including cruelty; however, obviously, you will be unable to provide certain details or testimony later on if you do not identify yourself.
Animal cruelty (OK Title 21 § 1685), a felony in Oklahoma, includes “any person who shall willfully or maliciously torture, destroy or kill, or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to the person or to another, or deprived of necessary food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care to prevent suffering…”
When an officer arrives on the scene, if the animals are found to be at risk, but the situation is not critical enough to warrant felony charges, any Oklahoma peace officer or animal control officer may describe the problems and give the owner or caregiver a certain number of days to correct the situation. Called “terms and conditions,” (Chapter 67, § 1680.4), these changes will bring the owner into compliance, and they will avoid criminal charges. This is intended to correct the problem without seizing animals; it also helps support law enforcement if further action is needed later on.
Using terms and conditions, an officer may stipulate, for example, that a limping horse or an underweight animal must be seen by a veterinarian, or simply that an outdoor dog must have access to useable shelter. Under this statute, the officer must write out the terms and conditions, and they must be signed by the owner of the animal and the officer as well. Providing terms and conditions saves time for the courts and enables people to resolve a situation before it becomes dire. However, issuing terms and conditions before seizure is not required; if animals are in mortal danger, officers may bypass this step and proceed to seizure.
Following issuance of terms and conditions, the officer (or someone from their agency) will return to the site in the specified number of days to make sure the caregiver has complied. If they have complied, the situation will be considered resolved. If not, further action that may include seizure will be taken.
In the case of a seizure for cruelty or neglect, the law enforcement agency will obtain a court order to remove the animals from care and custody of the owner. Usually that means removing them from the premises, though in some cases the animals will be seized on site, with the seizing agency arranging for care of the animals at the owner’s premises.
Seizing on site may be used in large-scale cases where it is difficult to find temporary placement for the animals, or if animals are too debilitated to be moved. During the seizure, officers will document the scene; a veterinarian will normally be present, and the animals will be placed into a protective situation where they will be further evaluated. Unless the jurisdiction of the seizing agency has an animal shelter, an animal welfare organization will normally provide assistance at the time of seizure.
At the time of seizure, officers will ask for a witness statement from everyone who was involved. At this time, the case splits; a criminal case is prepared against the owner, and a civil case proceeds in order to determine whether the animals will be held throughout the case (at the owner’s expense) or if the owner will relinquish the animals.
The civil case safeguards the animals while the criminal case against the alleged perpetrator gets ready to proceed. Under Title 21, Chapter 67, § 1680.4, within seven days of a seizure, the agency that seized the animals will ask its district attorney to file a petition with the courts to mandate that a person pay “reasonable costs” for the care and feeding of the animals throughout the court case.
This hearing is to be held within 10 days after the district attorney applies for it, and the owner is given 72 hours to post the funds. Though it is called a ‘”bond” hearing, the owner does not regain custody of the animals by posting the money; it simply secures his or her interest in the animals, and should the owner be found not guilty the animals will be returned. If he or she cannot pay for feeding and care, or chooses not to post the funds, the animals are automatically released to the agency and may be sold or placed for adoption. Whether or not the owner posts the funds does not affect the criminal case against him or her.
At the bond hearing, the agency that seized the animals will show that it had probable cause to seize the animals. It may show photos and videos, have witnesses appear and use veterinary records to show the courts why the animals were removed from the owner.
The timeline for this civil process is expected to include seven days for the initial request to be filed, 10 days for scheduling the hearing, and 72 hours to allow the owner to post the funds for a total of up to 21 days from seizure to release or place long-term. Of course, this sometimes takes longer due to court dockets, etc. For agencies with little funding, donations of animal foods and supplies will be critical during this time.
The court will have pretrial hearings in which plea agreements will be entered, or the attorney for the accused will enter a plea of not guilty. Call the courthouse to monitor the docket, stay on top of the case, and make sure that advocates stay in the loop. If advocates are absent, the prosecutor and law enforcement have no way to know people care. Be the family of the victim.
Also, make animal cruelty a priority when you cast your ballot. All agencies or officials answer to voters or to other agencies that designate funding. Animals have only you to speak on their behalf.
As Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, tells TulsaPets Magazine, “Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for them do. Lawmakers must recognize the needs for better enforcement of animal protection laws across the nation.” (Animal Legal Defense Fund is a California-based organization that has fought to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system for three decades.)
Oklahoma has strong anti-cruelty laws; they are enforceable, and they need to be a priority. Jamee Suarez, president of Tulsa-based Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, says her organization receives calls from concerned citizens desperately trying to get help for animals who are suffering from neglect and cruelty. “Many have called their city or county and have gotten no response,” she says. “These calls are often tragic. Hopefully, more people will contact their elected officials to urge better enforcement of anti-cruelty laws.”
Because the forfeiture statute requires owners to pay for the care of the animals if the owner does not relinquish them, no agency needs a lot of money in order to take action; compassion counts first, and you, the concerned citizen, can place it front and center.