What to look for:
- Owner physically harming the animal
- Parasites, e.g. tick or flea infestations
- Signs of many old wounds*
- Missing fur*
- Signs of untreated illness
- Pets kept in a very dirty area, e.g. lots of feces, garbage, broken glass
- Pets kept in too small kennel/cage – they should be able to stand and turn around in it
- Animals left in an abandoned property
- Too many pets on one property – could be a sign of animal hoarding
- Lack of grooming, e.g. matted fur, long nails, dirty appearance overall
- Collar is very tight or embedded in skin
- Emaciated (very thin)
- Repeatedly being left alone without food or water
- Outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions
- Cowers in fear or acts aggressively when owner approaches.
- Constantly chained up outside, especially for dogs if legal requirements are not met (see below)
The legal requirements for an outdoor dog in Michigan are that they have access to:
- Insulated dog house – shelter from wind required
- If they are kept in a building it must be insulated
- Dry bedding
- Access to fresh water (snow does NOT count)
- If they are on a tie out, it must be 3x length of their body from head to tail
Unfortunately there are no such legal requirements for cats.
*Keep in mind a pet may have just come out of a bad situation or is being treated for a medical issue. A pet may have been rescued from a bad situation, and have a new owner who is working with them and caring for their injuries. If you see a pet who is missing fur, they could have an allergy the owners are trying to find the right treatment for. Also they could have been taken from a bad situation and the new owner is working to socialize them and teach them that not all people are bad.
What to do if you suspect abuse/neglect:
Document what you see. Keep track of what happened, when, where, with who, etc. Be very descriptive. More details can be very helpful. If you have any photos, videos, or other evidence keep that on hand as well. If you see something concerning on social media, it’s good to download that as further evidence. Also consider is anyone else aware of this situation who might be willing to come forward? Neighbors might be aware of the situation as well.
How to report:
Unfortunately Houghton, Keweenaw, and Baraga counties do not have animal control, so suspected abuse or neglect should be reported to the sheriff’s department. You can reach them by calling 911 and telling them it’s a non-emergency or you can call Negaunee Regional Dispatch Center at 906-475-1199. As much as we would love to help with these situations, Copper Country Humane Society is not able to do anything about these situations. You are welcome to make us aware of them, and we can call the sheriff’s department and check up with them, but we legally are not able to do anything.
We understand that many people want to remain anonymous to avoid problems with their neighbors and such, but this makes it extremely difficult to get charges pressed against abusive or negligent pet owners. Us humans need to speak up for the voiceless. Animals can’t tell us they are being mistreated, so it is up to us if we see something to say something.
Author: Rebecca, CCHS assistant manager