Animal Services=Family Services

Pets are family.  Animal services=family services.  Or at least, that’s the way it should be.  But all too often, it seems that there is simply a one-size-fits-all approach for authorities dealing with animal situations in people’s homes.  If the residents are breeding pets for sale, they are labeled a puppy mill.  If they have a large number of pets, they are called hoarders.  And it so often plays out the same way:  the animals are seized and sent to pet killing facilities while the people are charged as criminals.

When it comes to human families, social services appears to take a more nuanced approach.  They recognize that even when the home environment is lacking, the parents still have both legal rights to, and deep emotional bonds with, their children.  Breaking up a family by removing kids from the home and placing them into a shabby state foster system is viewed as a last resort.  Social workers generally seem to be able to distinguish the obviously evil parents whose malnourished 5 year old is in a diaper and locked in a closet from those who love their children but need education, assistance and monitoring in order to do a better job as parents.  The former must be charged as criminals and their kids saved from further abuse.  The latter need to be provided with the tools and skills required to bring the home environment up to societal norms.

These same nuances are all at play when it comes to pets in the home.  If the care being provided to the pets is sub-standard, the cause should be investigated.  Is the owner physically and emotionally overwhelmed as caregiver to an elderly family member and acquiring more and more pets in an attempt to satisfy her own emotional needs?  Could the person take better care of a smaller number of animals who could be neutered so that no more unplanned litters were born in the home?  Or is the person beating the animals to death with hammers for laughs?  Obviously the latter requires immediate intervention to lock up the criminal abuser and save the animals.  The former situations, which I believe are indicative of the most common type of scenarios encountered by authorities – that is, someone who loves their animals but just isn’t doing a good enough job caring for them – dictate a more subtle approach.

Tragically, we rarely seem to hear about these cases being handled with any degree of subtlety.  If you aren’t taking proper care of your animals, you’re deemed a bad guy.  You get charged as a criminal and your pets are seized to either be killed at a pound or to displace others who get killed to free up cage space.

After a nightmare experience with authorities, these folks get more animals, because the fact that they love pets was never addressed as it should have been.  But in future, they go underground.  They don’t license their pets or take them to a vet for rabies vaccines.  When they recognize they are in need of help in caring for their pets, they don’t ask for it for fear of being criminally charged and having their animals seized again.  Clearly everyone is a loser in these scenarios and communities are made less safe because of the actions of authorities.

It’s past time animal control and police officers stopped viewing problem pet situations as something less than problem family situations.  They are one and the same and require a nuanced approach.  Most pet owners, like most parents, love their family members and want to do right by them.  Authorities should help them.  Save the criminal charges and seizures for the minority of pet owners and parents who are intentionally hurting their family members.  Just because a pet is involved does not mean it’s necessary to throw the book at the owner.  Animal control and police officers need to exercise the same degree of discretion with pet situations that they do with children and their parents.  Pets are family.

10 thoughts on “Animal Services=Family Services

  1. agree 100000% this is one of the best post you have ever written.. Sheltering in place is a good solution for everyone/ sharing this one all over the place.. People have killed themselves over the seizure of their animals.. “authorities” say we;ll they were unstable to begin with.. as if the taking had not bearing on their tragic act. I have often thought that Scout troops and others like 4H and FFA could be useful in these situations.. helping others and helping animals as well.. plus learning a huge lesson in aiding others. If you can get volunteers to seize animals then why not get them to help animsl AND people ( although they won;t get the photo ops and the smug satisfaction of taking something away from others)
    of course we know the real reason the seizures are done .. one thing only.. MONEY.. shelters take all sorts of dogs for free and then sell them using the dogs as props.. The HSUS/ASPCA factory fundraisers could not exist without some sort of crisis every day wee etc..
    and yes the threat to public health is there with lack of vaccinations etc..
    Great post .. one to keep and one to share.. and certainly one to implement
    thank you

  2. One has to ask, “What is the primary motivation of the people involved?” Not just the pet owners, but also the authorities.

  3. Many animal lovers love their pets as family members.. The police and authority’s must realize this. They are our family members our children. If help is needed in neutering/ spaying there should be a inexpensive place for these poor people to go to and also a low cost vet to help these people. We all pay enough of damn taxes for something to be done. Not for authorities to come in and seize our beloved pets to be abused and killed in some hell hole shelter,.

  4. Ditto, Biscuit.. agree with you 100%. Could not have said it any better! I know my dog is my little girl and always will be. Thank you for standing up for them. God Bless you!

  5. So true. Often people just need education about the needs of their furry companions. Sterilizations of pets should also be sponsored by the state.

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