Animal abuse, neglect call attention to pets, penalties

By J. Anfenson-Comeau

Recent animal abuse and neglect cases highlight the need to be aware that there are laws protecting pets and penalties for abusing them, according to St. Landry Parish Animal Control Officer Patricia Guillory.

“All animals are required to be provided with adequate food and water, and dogs are required to have an adequate dog house,” Guillory said.

The failure to provide this is considered animal cruelty under parish ordinances, and can be punished with a fine and confiscation of the animal, if it’s not too late.

Recently, Eunice police were horrified by the discovery of the skeletal remains of a dog which, according to police, had been chained to a tree and left to die; the owner, Nick Watley, was arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

Poisoning pets is also considered cruelty; Eunice police are investigating an incident in which at least three dogs, including an elderly woman’s Yorkshire terrier, died of antifreeze poisoning.

In addition, “Every dog, cat or ferret is required to have current rabies vaccinations by a veterinarian,” Guillory said, adding that the owner is required to keep proof of vaccinations, which should include a rabies tag.

Guillory said that some people think that their pets need only one vaccination, and do not realize that rabies booster vaccinations are required every year.

Other vaccinations, while not required, are strongly recommended. Guillory said that since Hurricane Gustav, “Parvo and distemper have been running rampant in this parish.”

Dumping dead animals on public property, in gulleys, bayous and streams is also a crime, and can be punished with fines or jail time.

Several dead dogs have been found dumped into gulleys on the east side of Eunice and on Perchville Road, and Eunice Animal Control Officer Walter “Red” Davy has complained of people repeatedly dumping dead dogs and cats at or near the Eunice dog holding facility, graphic photos of which were recently shown on television.

Animals are also not allowed to run loose outside of their owners’ property, and can be seized by law enforcement or animal control, and the owner penalized.

The St. Landry Parish Animal Shelter in Opelousas sees a lot of troubled cases.

The shelter takes in an average of 250 dogs and 50 cats a month, most of whom, approximately three-fourths, are picked up by animal control, Guillory said.

The shelter has only limited space, and since only approximately one-quarter of the animals picked up each month get adopted out, many need to be euthanized.

The shelter has recently converted from euthanasia by CO2 gas chamber to lethal injection, increasing space in the facility and allowing for the construction of a cat activity area.

Adoptions from the shelter cost $5, to cover the cost of a microchip implant.

State law requires that all pets adopted from shelters be spayed or neutered within 30 days of adoption or by the age of six months, for young pets.

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