Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Here I'm dealing with a case where the abuse is not on-going, and where you have found an injured or dead cat :-
1. Way before you ever (and hopefully you never do) encounter an abused cat, get familiar with the laws relating to animal abuse. You will likely be emotional and upset when you see an injured/abused or dead cat - it's best to familiarise yourself with the laws when you are in a steadier frame of mind.
The resources are all available online. You'll want the Animals and Birds Act - and specifically Section IV. I'm not linking to the Act directly in case there are any changes to the legislation - which will result in broken links.
You'll also realise that cruelty to animals extends to other situations rather than straight out abuse - ie where the animal has been battered or harmed.
You may well need to refer to the legislation again when you do come across an abused animal, but you'll at least have some kind of impression of what is covered and what isn't.
2. Stay calm - you've just seen something distressing and it's completely normal to be very upset or to panic. Take a deep breath and remember that everything you do right now makes it easier if you are able to prosecute.
3. If the animal is alive - take it to the vet immediately. If the animal is dead, don't touch it. Take photos if you can and make as many notes of the scene as possible.
4. Take the animal to the vet for a necropsy - you can also wait for the AVA or SPCA to do it, but the faster you get to a vet for a necropsy, the more details you get. In a tropical climate, decay sets in fast and it may soon be difficult to determine the cause of death.
5. Prepare your information. If you have photos, a vet report, etc, make sure to prepare all the information and bring it with you. If you have witnessed anything (even if it's just discovering the body), take a few minutes to sit down and write out a statement. Don't jump to conclusions - just state what you saw/when it happened/what you did. Also, it's helpful to carry a copy of the relevant legislation. You'll need this for the next step.
6. Make a police report.
This is the point that most people seem to get stuck on because often, you'll be told that the police do not handle animal abuse cases. People have been told quite often to call the SPCA - and when I was with CWS, we actually had a meeting with the police to clarify this. The police DO investigate. It also says so in the statute. The officers are likely to call AVA. You may want to inform the AVA yourself as they will probably be conducting the investigation and they do have the powers to investigate.
The reason it is a good idea to write your statement before heading to the police post is that in my experience, it's more efficient. Otherwise you, or whomever is making the statement ,has to give it to the office on duty. In the cases where I've seen someone give a statement (or where I've given one), there have been errors, either grammatical or factual that need to be corrected. Having a written or typed statement minimises the time you and the officer taking your statement needs to spend.
If an officer tells you that you cannot make a report, or that it is someone else's jurisdiction, you may want to show him or her the legislation. You may also wish to escalate it to a superior officer - most of them are much better informed.
You can also apparently lodge a report online but these are for non-urgent cases.
Bear in mind, only a witness can make the report - so if someone tells you that they saw a cat abused, only that someone can make the report. You cannot.
You may wish to inform the relevant welfare groups - and it's a good idea to do so, but they cannot investigate or prosecute.
6. When you make a report, get a case number. Also ask which officer is going to be in charge so you can follow up with him or her.