Today in something of a wrap-up of this week’s posts on cruelty, I thought I would take 1 particular aspect of 2910 and work through a typical scenario for y’all.
I’m going to preface this with a few facts as well as with my opinion on some aspects of this matter. The number of folks in this country who either grew up on farms and ranches or later on in life spent a significant number of years there learning animal husbandry through experiencing it, is miniscule. Census numbers have been well under 3% since I was an undergraduate (way too long ago.) Watching Discovery, Disney, or some PBS special, and I’ll also include those who’ve “taken a class…” in this sweeping statement – this does not provide a person with much of an understanding of the dynamics of how livestock behave, thrive or survive. Nor would such person be enabled to discern accurately, especially with an understanding of the legal framework in AZ, whether a given situation may be cruel, abusive or neglectful. Neither outrage nor self-righteousness is a substitute for knowledge, experience and keen judgment. And a related point, neither do watching shows provide an adequate education or basis for caring for animals, especially domesticated livestock. Lastly, the cheapest part of owning such creatures is usually buying it.
Ok. Enough of that.
Let’s get into a scenario with a horse. Please assume it wasn’t obese to begin with (since that one should lose weight. Obese isn’t healthy for horses either.) Do you remember your definitions??? You can’t play if you don’t know what the rules are. Also please keep the Pareto Principle in mind; it’s a great guide in the real world.
“Cruel neglect” means to fail to provide an animal with necessary food, water or shelter. [13-2910(H)(3)] And if a person “[i]ntentionally or knowingly subjects any animal under the person’s custody or control to cruel neglect or abandonment that results in serious physical injury” [13-2910(A)(8)] that person is looking at a Class 6 Felony charge.
Question: How hard is it for you to lose weight?? In large measure that depends on whether you are allowed free-choice feeding. And in the case of most Americans, the answer to that situation is a resounding, “Of course it’s hard!” That food availability, coupled with our sedentary lifestyle makes losing weight a real challenge. Why would you think it would be any different with another mammalian biological system? It isn’t. So there’s one piece of the puzzle.
If the horse is losing weight, there is a failure to provide necessary food. Yes there are physical and medical conditions that can contribute. But the term for what is by far the most common reason is “agroceriosis”. That’s pseudo-scientific for no or not enough groceries getting into the horse.
This aspect though is a bit like a movie versus a single snapshot. One snapshot doesn’t tell you the story of how the horse came to be in its current condition. That piece of information is hugely significant in determining neglect. It is very difficult to make a judgment on the basis of 1 picture.
So there’s another piece of the puzzle – time – and the evaluation of the changes of the horse’s general condition over the course of time. Additionally you need some means to accurately measure. In this case it could be a weight scale, but not necessarily. There are other means of estimating weight such as weight tapes and years of experience (and you can still be badly fooled). BTW the horse standing on your foot is not a very good method.
So if we can accurately measure, and we record those measurements, and the measurements show the horse is losing weight, what next? How significant is the loss? Is it transitory? Horses competing extensively or mares milking heavily are going to lose weight in spite of best husbandry. There is simply more demand than can be met – in the short run. Again think movies not snapshots.
Here we have begun to deviate from the role we in the State Vet’s Office and Animal Services Division of ADA are obligated to fulfill. The reasons for the loss are the owner’s responsibility to define and correct – which is one reason why you will find veterinarians listing their services for hire. Otherwise, how is this not a situation that fits the parameters of “cruel neglect” or at least for investing the possibility of it?
To jump ahead somewhat from what seems to me a logical procession to a conclusion of neglected horse, I have witnessed some rather tortured logic in how situations such as I described above were found not to be neglect.
Question: since “Intentionally or knowingly” is required for the situation to be a violation, if the person is ignorant of how to feed and care for the horse, is it still a crime? To reiterate the point I made in my preface, ignorance of animal husbandry is rampant.
Please realize there are almost infinite numbers of permutations to the simple scenario above which when taken in total will push the judgment of the situation in one direction or another. But let me take you back to the Pareto Principle – the vast majority of horses which are in poor physical condition are because they haven’t had adequate feed in front of them (imo).
This is getting very long – and still I’ve left much uncovered. I’ve not even touched the water or shelter language! But that hopefully that provides some insight into the process.
Y’all enjoy the ride.