Laws in place to protect animals

Wanda English Burnett – Editor

The problem of animal abuse and neglect signifies a much deeper issue - one that can affect the quality of life in a community, according to equine expert Anthony R. Caldwell, president of the Animal Protection Coalition, Inc./Indiana Horse Rescue organization.

“There is a direct link between animal abuse and domestic violence and abuse,” he told the group gathered for an informative seminar last week at the Ripley County Emergency Management Agency’s office in Versailles.

Passionate about the issue, Caldwell gave an overview of the mission of their organization and what it means to abused horses. Citing Indiana State law, he laid the foundation for what can be done when animal abuse is suspected. “Any police officer can take any animal,” he noted, saying the laws are specifically designed to protect the animals.

“While we’re not interested in running about taking people’s animals, they do have a responsibility to take care of animals they have on their property,” Caldwell said.

Wayne Peace, director of Ripley County Emergency Management Agency (RCEMA) agreed with Caldwell saying, after complaints about the care of animals were made at a recent public meeting, he felt the seminar was timely. “We just want people to take care of their animals,” he reiterated. He, along with Andy Bryant, environmental health specialist for the county, hosted the event.

Make no mistake, if there is suspected abuse it will be checked out and with the “law very clear” animals can be removed from properties without the owner’s consent or knowledge. Also, according to Caldwell, a veterinarian can make the decision of euthanasia for any animal after determination of health is made.

“Taking animals from their owners is not the first thing to do,” Caldwell explained. He said, sometimes people just need help. He cited a case in Greensburg that was referred to his agency. “These people were going through hard times, they simply did not have the feed for their horses.” The horse rescue organization that Caldwell heads, stepped in and no, they didn’t take the horses - they brought food to them and helped the owners keep the animals they loved. “Our job is to improve animal welfare,” Caldwell said.

But, he’s not opposed to going onto a property and seizing one, two, or 30 horses at a time, which he has done.

Referring to Indiana Code, Caldwell said animals have rights. In the laws, words such as neglect (to give little attention or respect to), torture (anguish of body or mind - something that causes agony on pain), and mutilate (to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect), are clearly defined.
Using the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System, a horse can be evaluated for fat content. Caldwell explained that a horse that is rated a (2), should be under immediate care. The ribs would be prominent at this level and the horse very thin.

When a horse’s condition is questionable, there are vital signs that give the answer to whether the animal needs medical care. They include: temperature, pulse, respiration, gut sounds, dehydration and more.

An important physical factor that can determine the care of a horse is the condition of their hooves. “...a riding horse must have sound, healthy hooves in order to function properly and be of any use to its owner.” That information comes from an animal scientist, student and veterinarian.

The report went on to note that horse’s hooves can require more maintenance than dairy hooves, or the hooves of any other animal. They not only require daily cleaning, but some horses benefit from shoeing as well. Stone bruises, punctures, and abscesses are all common. “You can tell a lot about the horse’s care by its hooves,” Caldwell noted.

Horses and all outside animals are greatly affected by cold weather. Caldwell says horses require additional energy to maintain their internal body temperature and keep warm. The type of feed is another important factor, along with maintaining ample water intake.

Some of the steps to effective cold weather management for horses include increasing hay, increase dry-matter content of the diet 24 hours prior to forecasted cold weather, supplement fat, and offer 10 gallons of warm water daily.

Adequate shelter is an important aspect to the well being of horses and all animals.

Upon receiving a complaint of an abused or neglected horse, an Animal Control Officer (ACO) may look for signs of neglect. They would include but are not limited to: no shelter, debris or substantial droppings in a stall, ammonia fumes or urine in the stall, chew marks on the stall, limited access to water, overgrown, untrimmed hooves and unstable, weak fences.

Caldwell noted that a horse’s age can be determined by their teeth. “We’ve had people try to tell us their horse was skinny because it was old,” he commented. A quick inspection of the teeth tells the story. Also, a request to see feed receipts can sometimes prove or disprove a statement.

Citing court cases involving the care of horses, Caldwell said the law is clear and his organization follows it, making them successful in what they do.

The bottom line is - if you have animals - and horses in particular - they require a lot of care. Peace concluded by saying, “If people aren’t willing to spend time and money, they shouldn’t own animals.”
Caldwell told the law enforcement officers in attendance at the meeting to rely on experts and not hesitate to make a call for animals to be removed if abuse or neglect is suspected.

Officers from the Indiana State Police, Ripley County Sheriff’s Office, EMA personnel, Humane Society, Horse Rescue investigators, employees of the local health department and state animal Board of Health, were all represented at the seminar. They were from Dearborn, Jennings, Decatur and Ripley counties.


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