POCATELLO, Idaho - April is National Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, but with that comes questions of what is considered abuse or neglect. Pocatello Animal Control Officer Josh Heinz said to think about it in simple terms.
"Treat your animals like family - family that you love," Heinz said with a laugh.
But that doesn't mean you can't still scratch that spot on your dog just to see their leg kick. Animal Shelter Manager Danielle Garcia said every family is different.
"Being in the house and sleeping in your bed with you doesn't make you a better pet owner than somebody who lives in the country and their dog has a doghouse with hay," said Garcia. "As long as they're cared for."
That's why both said it's important to know what's considered abuse and what's considered neglect.
"Abuse is going to be anything that harms that animal, that causes it pain," Heinz said. "Just leaving it on a chain, without and food, water or shelter could be considered abuse, but that's more neglect."
The ASPCA website (www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty) lists several kinds of abuse, advocacy and behavior guides. One form of abuse we see in southeastern Idaho is an animal having another litter of babies, and the animal's owner killing the babies because they can't take care of them.
"We don't want that to happen, but unfortunately it probably does," Heinz said. "If we're aware of it we address the problem. Hopefully people understand that's what we're here for. We don't turn any animal away."
Garcia said she knows there's concern that nobody wants to bring an animal to the shelter for fear of it being put to sleep. She said they do everything within their power to find an animal a good home, but sometimes an animal that's brought in is beyond help.
She said she's seen many animals who have experienced such abuse in the past they bite anyone out of fear, or have other severe behavioral issues. She said it's not fair for the dog to live it's life in fear or wanting to be in a corner all the time, so if there's no signs of the animal being able to be rehabilitated, they will put the animal to sleep.
She said while it's tough to do that, the animal at least passes away painlessly in the arms of a human that cares about them.
Garcia said another form of abuse or neglect could be putting your dog in the bed of your pickup.
"It's not just the dangers of them falling out because there are other dangers too," Garcia said. "In the middle of the summer, that's hot. The beds of those trucks are hot, and in the wintertime they're really cold."
Garcia also said there's a tethering law many people may not be aware of. She said you can't leave your dog outside while tied to a post or a tree in the middle of the yard, even if they do have food and water. She said they can shorten the chain just by running around, which they likely will do.
She suggested a tethering system like they have at the animal shelter. You tie a line across a portion of your yard and hook a looping leash onto it. That way there's no chance of the dog leaving themselves stuck by running around, but they're still restricted.