How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures

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Chapter 4. Animal Care Standards for Some Common Animals

We are providing a set of care guidelines for the various types of animals generally involved in cruelty complaints. We have presented the minimum conditions that should be present to ensure that the animals are receiving basic care. In addition, we have added recommendations that ideally should be followed.

We also have described what to look for in terms of the appearance of the animals and the environmental conditions that are symptoms of neglect and cruelty. If these are present, call a veterinarian to examine the animal(s).

In some cases, the neglect and cruelty will be obvious even to an untrained eye. In others, it may be more subtle, but if you become familiar with the following animal care standards, you will be better prepared to recognize it.

Minimum care guidelines for the following animals are included:


Dogs

Terminology

Female – Bitch
Male – Male

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water (in a spill proof container) should be accessible at all times.
  • Should be fed at least once a day with a good quality dog food, based on feeding instructions on package.
  • Even if the dog is outside for short periods, it should have shelter available to protect it from the elements.
  • Important ­with regard to being outside in winter weather, the breed of dog must be taken into consideration. Short haired dogs (Dobermans, Dachshunds, Pitbulls, etc.) and thin haired dogs (Russian Wolf Hounds, etc.) should not be left outside for extended periods in cold weather because they were not bred to withstand the cold. They should only be let outside for a short time to relieve themselves.
  • Keeping a dog outside NYSHA does NOT recommend that dogs be constantly kept outside alone because dogs by nature are social “pack” animals and have a psychological need to be with their human packs. However, if for some reason a dog is kept outside, the owner should provide a dog house that meets the following standards:
    • The dog house should accommodate the size of the dog; that is, it should be large enough to allow the dog or dogs to get inside and move about. However, it should not be too large because in cold weather it must permit the dog’s body heat to accumulate inside the structure to provide some warmth. The dog’s breed, physical condition and age must be considered when determining whether a dog house meets its needs. The structure should:
      • Be raised at least two inches off the ground to prevent it from sitting in pooled water.
      • Be shaded during the hot weather months; during the winter, the doorway should have a flap of windproof material to cover it.
      • Contain sufficient bedding, such as straw or wood shavings that are changed often enough to remain dry and clean.
    • To ensure that a dog’s water does not spill, a water pail should be attached to the dog house with an “O” ring screw and a double end snap.
    • Food should be increased during the winter months to provide the extra calories necessary for warmth, and water must be offered frequently to counteract freezing.
  • Tethering (chaining) a dog any tethering should be done for brief periods of time to allow a dog some exercise. The dog should have access to shade and protection from rain and snow.Problems associated with constant tethering:
    • Abnormally restrictive and can result in behavior problems.
    • Chains can get tangled and result in the dog’s being strangled or dangerously restricted.
    • Exposes dogs to attack by other dogs and wildlife
    • Owners forget to check dog collars and they often become imbedded in the dog’s neck. (This is a case of neglect and the owner can be charged with cruelty under Section 353 of Article 26 of the Agriculture and Markets Law.)

As an alternative to tethering, to provide exercise only: NYSHA recommends placing a long cable between two trees or poles. A ring can be attached to the cable and the dog’s chain or lead attached (clipped) to the ring.

Additional recommendations

  • The dog should have yearly veterinary exams to ensure the proper health and to provide preventative shots and medications (such as rabies shots, heartworm blood tests, medication, etc.).
  • The dog should be spayed or neutered. This will prevent the birth of additional litters and improve the health and behavior of the dog.

Signs of neglect/cruelty ­ what to look for

Appearance of animal: dull hair coat; thin (ribs showing, sunken-in flanks); hair loss; diarrhea; chronic cough; heavy flea infestation with hair loss and scabs; bare ear tips and other body areas, indicating sarcoptic mange.

IMPORTANT:Remember to check for collar which is too tight, and for overgrown or ingrown nails, especially dewclaws, i.e., the “thumb nails” on the first digit, which tend to overgrow since they don’t contact the ground.

Housing Conditions: overturned water bowl (water should be in spill proof container); no evidence that dog has been fed; no shelter from elements; ground covered with fecal matter.

Behavior: listless; depressed the animal does not respond to attention; excessively fearful; aggressive; shy; constant scratching, biting at body, indicating heavy flea infestation or sarcoptic mange.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Cats

Terminology

Female – Queen
Male – Tom

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water in a spill proof container should be accessible at all times.
  • Should be fed at least once a day with a good quality cat food, based on feeding instructions on package.
  • Indoor cats must be provided with litter pans and litter material, cleaned daily to prevent urine and fecal buildup and odor.

Additional recommendations

  • Should have yearly veterinary exams to ensure health of cat and to provide any necessary medications and vaccinations against feline distemper, rabies, and (optional) feline leukemia.
  • The cat should be spayed or neutered. This will prevent the birth of additional litters and improve the health and behavior of the cat.
  • NYSHA believes that a primary responsibility of a cat owner is to protect cats from outdoor hazards by keeping them inside; however, if a cat is let outside or kept outside, it should have access to proper shelter, such as a barn, garage, etc. Feline leukemia testing and vaccinations are strongly recommended for outside cats.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: runny nose and eyes; congested breathing; ear mites; sores from fighting; thin body; matted fur; vomiting; diarrhea; parasites or allergies; hair loss.

Housing Conditions: no clean litter boxes; no clean water; no food available; no shelter; overcrowding overcrowding causes stress and infectious disease.

Behavior: excessively aggressive; fearful; listless; unresponsive; selfmutilation; constant scratching, biting at self.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Horses

Terminology

Female – Mare
Young female – Filly
Male – Stallion
Young male – Colt
Castrated male – Gelding

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should be fed as follows:
    • A complete hay diet consisting of Good quality hay (a 1000 pound horse will eat between 1/2 and 3/4 bale of hay per day; (for pony or small breed, 1/3 bale):

    OR

    • A partial hay diet consisting of a sufficient supply of good hay ( 1/6 to 1/3 bale), along with either oats, sweet feed, or other grain;

    OR

    • A “complete” grain type feed for those horses who cannot eat hay because of health problems.
  • Hay and grain should not be thrown on ground which could lead to infection/reinfection from parasites, but rather placed in manger or hay rack, or in case of grain, in a bucket or suitable container. All feed should be kept dry to avoid mold.
  • Salt blocks always should be available either white salt or preferably trace mineralized salt (red blocks).
  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, and high wind. The shelter should also provide sufficient shade in the summer.
  • Stalls can be box stalls (that is minimum 10′ by 10′ per horse) or straight stalls (only permits the horse to stay in a straight alignment, that is, it can stand and lie, but cannot turn around.) If confined to a straight stall, daily turnout should be provided. Natural light should be available and horses should not be overcrowded.

Additional recommendations

  • Should be wormed every three months ideally, but minimally in the spring and fall.
  • At a minimum, should be vaccinated for rabies and tetanus on an annual basis; other vaccinations as recommended by veterinarian.
  • Should receive proper hoof care. Hooves require trimming approximately every 8 to 12 weeks. A horse does not always require horse shoes. Shoeing depends on the condition of the horse’s feet, the type of work the horse does, the road surface it travels on, and how often it travels. Teeth should be checked annually and floated (filed down) if necessary.
  • Need to “graze” (i.e. have access to grass or hay). Ideally, hay should always be available whether inside or outside. The total time devoted to grazing and chewing hay should amount to approximately 18 hours a day. (This should minimize wood chewing.)

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin (ribs and vertebrae prominent); halter and other harness or saddle sores (check to see if halter has grown into the horse’s head); halter should not be kept on constantly; excessive hoof length (possibly with tips of hooves turned up); a hoof which is spongy on the bottom side and has a foul odor; bite wounds from constant fighting resulting from stallions pastured together or with mares.

Housing Conditions: no fresh water or food available; no shelter; overcrowded; no place to lie down; excessive manure and urine buildup; standing on muddy ground with no dry areas.

Behavior: head down and unresponsive; inactive; indifferent to surroundings and visitors; excessively fearful; displays excessive aggression toward other horses; odd standing behavior, such as standing on one forefoot while holding the other forefoot up so that only the toe touches the ground, lying on the ground excessively, standing with weight on hind quarters, resting chin on fence rail to get weight off forefeet.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Cattle

Terminology

Female – Cow
Young female – Heifer (has not yet had a calf; after two years considered cow even if never had a calf)
Male – Bull
Castrated male – Steer
Young animal, either sex – Calf

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should have good quality hay available or be able to graze at all times. Grain should be provided if the animal is growing, pregnant, being milked.
  • Hay (with the exception of big bales) and grain should not be dumped on the ground, but rather placed in manger or hay rack, or in case of grain, in a bucket, or other container.
  • All feed should be kept dry to avoid mold.
  • Salt blocks always should be available either white salt or preferably trace mineralized salt (red blocks).
  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, and sun. Facilities should be well ventilated.
  • Calves cannot digest hay or grass until 3 months old; so must be on milk and/or “calf starter” grain until then.
  • Should have dry bedding can be sand, sawdust, shredded paper, straw, packed manure (if DRY). In the winter, there should be enough bedding to provide insulation from the cold floor/ground.

Additional recommendations

  • Hoof trimming is not necessary unless the hooves are excessively long.
  • Should be vaccinated annually for rabies and other diseases, and dewormed according to veterinary advice.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: note that dairy cows are by nature “bony” in the hip area; however, one sign of an emaciated dairy cow may be a protruding back bone and sunken eyes; udder is red, swollen, hot, or dark blue or grey; milk is clotted or chunky or tinged with blood; bubbly gas from teat indicates severe infection; tears in teats or udder resulting from cow stepping on them when getting up which indicates poor husbandry (poor surface resulting in poor footing, no bedding.)

Housing Conditions: no place to exercise for adult animals; no dry place to lie down; no water or food; overcrowded; strong ammonia odors (not just a manure odor) from lack of ventilation.

Behavior: weak; minimally responsive; note that cattle who receive minimal handling (i.e. beef cows) will be naturally fearful of humans.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Sheep

Terminology

Female – Ewe
Male – Ram
Castrated male – Wether
Young sheep of either sex – Lamb

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should have good quality hay and/or be able to graze at all times. Grain should be provided if the animal is growing, pregnant, being milked. Note: grain can be oats, corn, or various mixtures, but the mixture must say SHEEP feed because cow feed mixes have too much copper, which is poisonous to sheep.
  • White salt or “sheep salt” block should be available at all times. (Avoid red salt block because it contains excess copper.)
  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, high wind, and sun, and a dry place to rest.

Additional recommendations

  • Should be wormed about 2-4 times a year to prevent disease. Lambs may need routine worming over the summer about every six weeks, based on veterinary advice.
  • Veterinary care should include being vaccinated for rabies, enterotoxemia (over eating disease), and tetanus once a year.
  • Should have hooves trimmed once a year.
  • Should be sheared each spring to prevent matting and overheating in the summer.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin – note that, with an unshorn (unclipped) sheep, you must feel the body of the animal to determine if it is underweight; maggots in genital area of unshorn female sheep; excessive hoof length look to see of sides of hoof have overgrown and curled under the bottom of hoof; limping; animal “walking” on knees.

Housing Conditions: lack of food, water, and shelter; overcrowding (insufficient manger space for the number of sheep, a condition which causes the weakest sheep to be excluded from the food source).

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive; drooping head; animals rubbing up against objects in an effort to relieve itching from lice (wool on objects that sheep rub against). Note that sheep are naturally fearful of strangers.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Goats

Terminology

Female – Doe
Male – Buck
Castrated male – Wether
Young animal, either sex – Kid

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should have good quality hay available and/or be able to graze at all times. Grain should be provided if the animal is growing, pregnant, being milked.
  • Salt block always should be available ­ either white salt or trace mineralized salt (red block).
  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, sun, and drafts. There should be enough air circulation to control humidity without being drafty.
  • Sanitary conditions should be maintained (that is, dry, clean bedding). Kids are especially susceptible to unsanitary conditions.

Additional recommendations

  • Should have hooves trimmed at least once a year.
  • Should be vaccinated for rabies, tetanus, and other diseases once a year. Should be dewormed 2-4 times a year to prevent disease.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: excessive hoof length (look to see of sides of hoof have overgrown and curled under the bottom of hoof); limping; animal “walking” on knees; swollen, hot, red udder, or dark blue or grey, if gangrenous; milk showing chunks or discoloration; very thin (normally should feel slight padding over bony areas.

Housing Conditions: too many animals to permit free movement; lack of food, water, and shelter; overcrowding (insufficient manger space for the number of goats, a condition which causes the weakest goats to be excluded from the food source); filth.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings (wellcared for goats are very friendly and curious); drooping head; biting at themselves, rubbing on objects to relieve itching from lice; if overcrowded, and bucks are present, can butt each other.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Pigs

Terminology

Female – Sow
Young female – Gilt (female that has not yet given birth)
Male – Boar
Castrated male – Barrow
Young weaned pig, either sex – Shoat

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should be fed complete pig ration at least twice a day; many complete pig rations are available on the market today. In addition, they can be fed table leftovers that are free of any plastic spoons, wrappers, animal bones, etc. as well as vegetables and fruits. Area should be large enough to allow all animals access to food.
  • Don’t need a salt block as long as they get a minimum of 1 to 2 pounds daily of a complete swine ration.
  • Should be provided with shelter that protects them from rain, snow, and drafts. Concrete, sloped pens that can be hosed down, expanded metal or slotted floors, or a clean, bedded pen are necessary for housing. If they are kept on concrete, they should be offered a forkful of sod once a week to chew on. Straw should be used in cold weather to help keep them warm.IMPORTANT:In the summer, shade is extremely important; if they are not provided with sufficient shade, pigs may die of heat exhaustion. They should have some method to cool them in the heat: a lawn sprinkler or some other cooling method. It is NOT acceptable to have them in the mud constantly because of the parasite potential. An occasional mudbath is very enjoyable for them, but pigs should have a dry area available to them.
  • Shelter should allow enough room so that the pigs are not overcrowded.
  • Hoof care is not needed.

Additional recommendations

Should be wormed twice a year and receive shots based on veterinarian’s recommendations (including rabies in endemic areas).

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: droopy/straight tail can indicate ill health (happy, healthy, pigs have a tightly curled tail); thinness; scratching (usually indicates presence of lice); limping. (If you see any of these signs, contact a veterinarian to examine animals.)

Housing Conditions: filthy, muddy, sloppy, manure and trashladen pens; lack of ventilation; lack of light; their sense of smell is extremely sensitive, so ammonia fumes causes discomfort; no dry areas for them to be dry and clean; overcrowded leads to disease and sickness in pigs, and will prevent the weaker ones from gaining access to food sources.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, listless, not interested in surroundings; drooping head. Note that pigs are shy with strangers.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Rabbits

Terminology

Female – Doe
Male – Buck

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be accessible at all times. Water should be placed in water containers especially made to hang on side of hutch. In the winter, if rabbits are outside, water should be changed often to prevent freezing.
  • Should have constant access to food. Should be fed pelleted rabbit food, along with small quantities of raw carrots, pieces of apple; alfalfa and other hay may also be provided.They may be fed fresh grass, but too much fresh grass may cause rabbits to suffer from severe diarrhea which could lead to death. Rabbit pellets must be stored to prevent exposure to moisture and light which causes vitamin loss.
  • Must have access to pieces of hard wood or dog biscuits to gnaw on so that they can keep their teeth worn down to a proper size to allow them to chew properly.
  • Should be provided with shelter that protects them from snow, rain, extreme cold, and wind. Wintertime subfreezing temperatures can cause death by freezing. In the summertime, shade is extremely important direct sun and heat can kill rabbits quickly.
  • Rabbit hutches should be cleaned daily. Hutch should have a box approximately 12″ by 12″ with dry bedding. The rest of the hutch should have a wire mesh (1/2″) floor. The hutch should be raised off the floor to allow the feces to fall through. This is necessary because rabbits eat their feces, and in captivity, parasite levels can become fatal.
  • To prevent overcrowding and further breeding, each hutch should only contain one adult rabbit, or two adults of the same sex if they get along, or an adult female with her litter.
  • Veterinary care as needed to check for diseases, parasites, and intestinal impaction due to hairballs or other foreign matter, also check for malalignment of teeth.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin; fur in poor condition; sores from scratching; portions of ears missing because of frostbite or because they were bitten off from overcrowding.

Housing Conditions: overcrowded conditions; must be sufficient space to permit all rabbits (including smaller ones) access to food.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings, depressed. Most rabbits are naturally shy of strangers.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Birds
Terminology

Female – hen
Male – cock

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should have access to bird seed at all times. Seed container should be checked to ensure that it really contains seed and is not filled with the empty seed shells. Bird seed must be supplemented with calcium easiest way is to provide them with ground, dry dog food in addition to their seed.
  • Should have a perch to rest on.
  • Should have access to “cuttlebone” or some other type of material that allows the bird to sharpen its beak.
  • Should be provided with a cage that allows them to move about freely. Cage should be placed in area free from drafts. Room in which birds are kept should be temperate in temperature – not too hot and not too cold.
  • Cage should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent buildup of feces and to prevent diseases.

Additional recommendations

  • Veterinary care for routine beak trimming as needed; also to check for respiratory and intestinal diseases.

Signs of neglect/cruelty – what to look for

Appearance of animal: feathers fluffed up (indicates fever, illness, or that room temperature is too low.); hard to tell if emaciated, but best indicator is to feel the bird’s breast bone to determine if it is too prominent.

Housing Conditions: overcrowding (weaker birds bullied and pecked by dominant ones); filthy cage; no fresh water or food.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings, depressed; drooping; “hunched” with feathers fluffed.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Chickens/Ducks/Geese

Terminology
Chickens Ducks Geese
Female – hen duck goose
Male – rooster drake gander
Young – chick duckling gosling

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Should have commercial chicken/duck food available at all times. Should be provided with a source of calcium, such as ground oyster shells, and a small amount of gravel.
  • Should be provided with shelter that protects them from snow, rain, extreme cold, and wind. In the summertime, shade is extremely important chickens/ducks/geese can die of heat exhaustion. Shelter should be properly ventilated to minimize ammonia odor; fans can be used to cool the birds. In the wintertime, must be kept warm enough to prevent rooster’s combs from becoming frost bitten. This can be done with heat lamps to keep the temperature above 32 degrees it the water doesn’t freeze, the temperature is OK.
  • Shelter should provide the birds with a place to roost and should be cleaned on a regular basis.

Additional recommendations

  • Poultry raised on the ground need to be wormed at least once a year.
  • Veterinary care as needed. Look for respiratory diseases (eyes seem half shut, breathing sounds raspy or rattling) and for diarrhea. Healthy birds should not have fecal matter matting the feathers around their hind quarters.

Signs of neglect/cruelty ­ what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin (feel the breastbone to see if it is prominent); unkempt feathers (healthy birds keep their feathers clean); frostbitten combs and wattles (red skin under chicken’s chin); feather picking; abrasions because of overcrowding.

Housing Conditions: overcrowding this can be fatal in chickens; too hot or too cold for safety of birds.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings, depressed; openmouth breathing if respiratory diseases are present, if conditions are too hot, or when stressed.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.


Gerbils/Guinea Pigs/Hamsters/Mice/Rats

Terminology

Female – Sow
Male – Boar
Young – Piglets

Basic Animal Care Standards

  • Should have access to fresh, clean water at all times, preferably from water bottle hanging from side of cage.
  • Should have a good quality food as appropriate for the species, usually a seed/pellet mixture. Guinea pigs require a pelleted food fortified with Vitamin C. Rabbit food should not be used for any of these small animals. Fresh vegetables are important in a guinea pig diet, but should be given in very small amounts to others.
  • Should have an odor free, dry, commercially prepared absorbent bedding or shavings. If guinea pigs are housed on wire mesh, it should not be larger than ½” x ½“ mesh.
  • Should have something to gnaw on, such as a piece of untreated wood or branches from fruit (unsprayed), willow or maple trees.
  • Females should be kept separate from males, except for breeding purposes.

Additional recommendations

  • Should have a small box to hide in, especially guinea pigs.

Signs of neglect/cruelty ­ what to look for

Appearance of animal: fur ­ standing on end, or wet, or matted; runny eyes and nose; thin; wet rump; evidence of fighting, such as bite marks around eyes, ears or rump; diarrhea.

Housing Conditions: filthy cage; wet bedding and strong odor; lack of water and food (look under bedding, asall but guinea pigs may take food from dish and hoard it); overcrowded quarters; too hot a location.

Note:after they are 3 months old, hamsters should be housed alone.

Behavior: unresponsive; animals fighting with each other.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine animals.

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