We’ve all seen heart-wrenching news stories about animal cruelty that have tugged at our heartstrings and made us think of how we can help. As SPCA Tampa Bay’s lead investigator for animal cruelty, I have served as a first responder and investigated and re-investigated more than 10,000 cases in our area. Although exposure to devastating accounts of abuse can be hard to digest, they present a powerful opportunity to talk about what our community can do to help. In light of Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, we want to share some information on cruelty warning signs and resources available to the community.
♦ Pets in unattended vehicles. Even if owners are heading inside for quick errands, the hot Florida sun doesn’t take long to raise the temperature. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes — even with the windows cracked.
♦ Matted coats or long nails. It may sound cosmetic, but these can prove very dangerous. Matted fur areas can become irritated and inflamed more easily and are often more susceptible to infection. In fact, allowing dog fur to become severely matted is a misdemeanor under Florida’s animal cruelty statute. And when nails grow too long, it becomes difficult and painful for animals to walk.
♦ Dogs left chained or tethered outdoors. It may seem like a simple way to keep dogs active, but keeping them chained or tethered is against local county ordinances. It also reduces their social interaction and development, which could cause behavior issues. Physically, they can injure themselves by pulling or yanking to escape their restraints.
♦ Hoarding. Some owners fall victim to their good intentions when they try to care for high numbers of animals. This type of hoarding is a compulsive need to collect and own animals that results in deplorable living conditions for the animals and owners.
If you see these signs or suspect animal cruelty in Pinellas County, please refrain from taking matters into your own hands and report it to SPCA Tampa Bay by calling 727-586-3592. Your personal information will remain confidential, and our team of professionals will take the lead, aiming to educate owners and work with them to better their relationships with their pets. In some cases, seizing animals and prosecuting owners will be necessary steps to ensuring animals’ safety. Recognizing the warning signs of cruelty and advocating for animals can help us give a voice to the voiceless.
Jill Purl is lead cruelty investigator for SPCA Tampa Bay.