Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


When is it appropriate to call the spcaLA
May 13, 2012 11:33 PM   Subscribe

At what point is it reasonable to get involved and call spcaLA, especially if the information is secondhand? All the troubling details inside.

This evening, a dog in my small apartment complex was barking for well over an hour to the point that a few of us had gathered outside of the apartment wondering if something was really wrong inside (like a slip & fall). As we were musing about what to do, the tenant came home, and it turned out it wasn't her dog, but actually another tenant's dog, L. These other tenants left town, across the country to go to a wedding, & made absolutely no arrangements for their dog's care. They texted the good Samaritan tenant at midnight last night and asked her to look in on the dog, who had been alone for 3-4 days. Oh yeah, and they left the heat on at 78 degrees. It is May in Southern California, and, when enclosed, the apartments in our building get particularly stuffy and hot without any form of climate control. Good Samaritan found the dog lethargic, dehydrated, & refusing to eat. He seemed much improved tonight, but was (understandably) very barky & distressed. They are scheduled to return tomorrow afternoon. If they left town due to an emergency or their original pet care plans fell through, I'd be far more understanding, but that is not the case. Also, this is apparently the second time they did this, but the first time good Samaritan was out of town, so I have no idea how they resolved the dog's care. Being an animal lover and, I'd like to think, a decent human being, I find this abhorrent. If these tenants were dealing with me directly, I do not think I would hesitate to call the SPCA, but all of this is secondhand. Is it my place to call? It is my moral obligation? Complicating things is if I did call, my guess is that the negligent tenants would assume good Samaritan dropped the dime, which would put her in an awkward position. They cross paths all the time. I barely see them or the good Samaritan. Also, except for this bizarre ditching the dog to vacation behavior, L appears well taken care of (fed, clean, almost always has constant company). So, do I call or just let it go and silently judge unless it happens again? I guess the third option is to say something to them when they return, but I'm not great at confrontation in the best of circumstances & right now, I'm not in a good way and have no local support system, so I'm not confident on my ability to follow through with a one-on-one interaction.
posted by katemcd to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This is animal abuse. Call the SPCA now (although good luck getting anyone on the phone at this hour). These people need to know that what they're doing is not okay.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:39 PM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Based on the information that you are aware of, it seems like this is abuse. You can contact the SPCA and explain the situation to them. I think as human beings, we have a moral obligation to take care of animals because they are in a vulnerable place and cannot truly do anything for themselves in these situations.

It's terrible that people would treat their pets this way. If you would like some more guidance and are comfortable talking to the good Samaritan, then perhaps you can ask her for advice since she went inside of the unit. You can also tell someone from the SPCA that you "suspect" abuse since you said that the information is second-hand. They will be able to figure out how to handle the situation.

Whatever you do, don't wait until the next time this incident happens. These dog owners were negligent to the point where their dog was left alone for 3-4 days. The dog also become lethargic, dehydrated, and refused to eat as you stated. These dog owners do not seem to be responsible enough to care for their pets and that's why someone from the SPCA should be contacted.
posted by livinglearning at 11:54 PM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Personally, I would think carefully about your local animal cruelty laws and the likelihood that this dog would be put down before calling the SPCA. What they're doing might be "abhorrent" but it's also wrong to send a dog to its death simply because you want to avoid confrontation with owners who are neither violently abusive nor typically negligent.
posted by acidic at 12:15 AM on May 14, 2012


The SPCA website says that animal cruelty includes unintentional neglect, but neglect seems to be limited to food, water, shelter, and veterinary care, not company or affection. I'm not clear from your explanation: if it hadn't been for Samaritan, would the dog have been without food or water, in dangerous heat? Or would it have been unhappily warm and lonely but with access to food and water?

The website does specify that, "Most cruelty investigated by Humane Officers can be resolved through education, if it is unintentional neglect," which suggests that they really don't leap to taking the animals away. (Certainly given the cost and bummerness of putting down animals they can't rehome, there's a lot of motive to try to work with owners to make the animal's home safe.)
posted by gingerest at 12:27 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


@gingerrest: I believe food & water was left out, but the heat was at dangerous levels and, if the Samritan had not intervened, the dog could have succumbed, potentially fatally, to the heat.

@acidic: Not threadsitting, but I am genuinely curious as to why you think the dog would be put down. Simply because of overpopulation and the possibility he might not be adopted?
posted by katemcd at 12:31 AM on May 14, 2012


but I am genuinely curious as to why you think the dog would be put down

More than 50% of dogs brought into shelters are put down, because they can't be or aren't adopted. Private shelters conceal their individual kill rates and are under no obligation to tell you the truth.
posted by acidic at 1:05 AM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think what acidic is referring to is some SPCAs are kill shelters. You could easily call and check to see if that is the case in your area. If you're concerned about it, you could consider calling no-kill rescue organizations after the SPCA and at least try to set up arrangements for the critter to ensure that he won't be under a short clock. Of course if the locals are no-kill, you're probably all set; many no-kill shelters are proud to point out that status.

Also this is why cities have animal control officers. It is literally their job to investigate and if necessary enforce animal cruelty laws. It could simply be that the owners don't realize that leaving the thermostat at 78 and a bowl of food and water isn't enough for a dog's happy survival and a chat with an animal control officer could help them become better pet parents and result in a happier everyone all around. (It will also put them on the radar in case they have repeated incidents, but I know animal control officers would rather try and work with the current owners rather than just taking the furkid away if there's no irreparable neglect.)
posted by Heretical at 1:12 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would hold off calling SPCA because if the dog is otherwise well-taken care of while the owners are in town, then it could be the owners are not aware that pet hotels is an option while they are away.

Are the owners originally from a country other than the US? Not every country has pet hotels. For example, if my mom gets a dog, she wouldn't know to put the dog into a pet hotel because that's not an established industry in her country of origin and she simply does not know that's an option for her.

That dog could also be the owners' first dog. Some people are just clueless. If you are uncomfortable with face-to-face talk, you could leave a note on the apartment's door explaining the situation and let them know that they need to make pet care arrangements prior to travelling. Maybe have the good samaritan talk with the owners in terms of give them some dog care tips since she seems to have a much closer relationship with the owners.

If this happens again, then I would get the authority involved.
posted by wcmf at 2:01 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with wcmf. It's possible they just need to be educated. Yes, it seems like some of this is obvious - leaving the temp up so high, wtf? But maybe they just didn't think it through. I would give them another chance. You could temper the possibly uncomfortable conversation with an offer to be the Good Samaritan next time.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:23 AM on May 14, 2012


Actually, to answer the question that was asked - you could report the details to the SPCA without any identifying info about you or your neighbors, and ask them if they think it's abuse. My [random Internet stranger] guess is they won't think so, when weighed against other situations they see all the time. But it would give you peace of mind that you tried.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:26 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it is not your place to call, and you don't have enough information. If the person directly involved wants to make this decision, it would be up to them. Some people are not awesome at being pet owners. Maybe they didn't have pets as kids, maybe they need some more education, maybe they just don't care enough... The fact that you say the dog is otherwise well taken care of and has companionship means that it's not an abusive or negligent living situation. If the dog was taken out of the owners care permanently, or even temporarily to "investigate", conditions for it would certainly be much much worse.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 6:23 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What they're doing might be "abhorrent" but it's also wrong to send a dog to its death simply because you want to avoid confrontation with owners who are neither violently abusive nor typically negligent. It is serious negligence to leave a dog alone for a number of days in an improperly ventilated space. The dog certainly didn't have appropriate sanitary options. Also, dogs are very social, and leaving them alone for 3 -4 days is very hard on them. I would call the SPCA; and ask them what their response would be to this behavior. It's likely they'll investigate, and that should include talking to the owners about proper care.
posted by theora55 at 6:28 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether intentional or unintentional what you describe is abuse. It needs to be reported ASAP. Just because you report it does not mean that the dog will be removed from the situation. A likely outcome is that your report will be investigated and the SPCA will try and work with the owners to make sure this kind of thing does not happen again.

It's possible they just need to be educated. Yes, it seems like some of this is obvious - leaving the temp up so high, wtf? But maybe they just didn't think it through. I would give them another chance.

The SPCA will help with their education. Again, they aren't going to raid the dog's owner’s apartment and abscond with the dog in the middle of the night. There are rules and procedures that need to be followed, and an investigation will done to determine what is the best outcome for the owners and the dog.

It is not your job to give them another chance. You witnessed abuse via neglect and you should report it to the proper authorities. Seriously, this dog can't advocate for itself. The welfare of our pets depends on people like you speaking up for them.

I think it is not your place to call, and you don't have enough information

I have heard so many people say "it's not my place" or "it's not your place". WRONG. It is your place. It's everybody’s place to prevent and stop abuse and neglect. Dogs and cats can't call the police. They can't call the SPCA. They can't get up, pack up their food bowls and litter boxes, and find a better home. I have dealt with cruelty investigations and worked at animal shelters and I can't there have been so many instances were lives could have been saved and terrible suffering prevented if people hadn't said, "Oh, it's just not my business." As a human being, yes, it is your business.

Make the report. Let the SPCA do their job. Your report does not automatically mean the dog with be turned over to a kill or no kill shelter.

And please, please, please, please, when you’re gut tells you something is wrong, don’t listen to people who tell you it’s not your business or that it’s not your place, listen to your gut.

Good luck. MeMail me if you want support or want to discuss this issue further.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:15 AM on May 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think that leaving cats with food and water for four days in 80 degree weather would be abuse, but I know nothing about dogs. Either way, I wouldn't talk to the SPCA before talking to the people-they may simply not have known that the dogs would have a problem with the heat. I know cats wouldn't, I would never have assumed dogs would until hearing about it.
posted by corb at 7:25 AM on May 14, 2012


Good Samaritan found the dog lethargic, dehydrated, & refusing to eat.

Also, 3-4 days without fresh water is neglect. The heat issue, that's neglect. The dog urinating and defecating inside for 3-4 days, that's neglect.

Also, this is apparently the second time they did this, but the first time good Samaritan was out of town, so I have no idea how they resolved the dog's care.

They have a history of neglecting their dog. This will happen again. The next time the dog might die. Heat stroke and dehydration is a terrible way to go.

If the SPCA gets involved, the owners are more likely to find suitable arrangments for their dog the next time they leave town.

You have an opportunity here to prevent future suffering or even a tragedy.

I know cats wouldn't, I would never have assumed dogs would until hearing about it.

This is a terrible assumption. Dogs are not cats. (A no cat should have to deal with a litter box that hasn't been cleaned to 3-4 days.)

All dogs don't do heat the same way. A brachycephalic dog could easily sucumb to heat stroke in a 80 degree apartment with no access to fresh water. A dog bred to withstand -20*F in an 80 degree apartment with no access to fresh water...yeah, that's going to be a former dog by the time the owners get home.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:34 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why you would have a problem with discussing this directly with the tenants in question. You have a legitimate concern. You don't have to be confrontational, just say, "gosh, when you were gone your dog really seemed to be in distress. I'm concerned that he may have had an issue or something while you were gone. I know that you've done this before, but, really, I just know you'd be heartbroken if something had happened to Fido. You know, there's a great pet hotel and it's really reasonable..."

But, you know not everyone has brass balls.

In some jurisdictions the local police department has an Animal Officer. Give them a call on their non-emergency line, explain your situation and see if someone can drop by to discuss proper pet care with these idiots.


If you live in an apartment building, you might want to alert the management, who in turn can discuss the situation with the errant tennants.

You can't just let it go though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is very likely that if you call the SPCA a couple of people will go round, talk to the owners, explain what constitutes appropriate arrangements when going out of town, verify that the dog is alive and in no obvious distress, maybe suggest some resources for caretakers (nearby kennels/dogwalkers, etc), and then leave. There will be a record of the visit, in case they get called again.

SPCA does not confiscate animals without it being a pretty serious situation and quite a bit of hoop-jumping. They also spend almost all their time in they said/they said situations, so the owners are going to get the benefit of the doubt.

If you also want to go over and talk to the owners, you can do that, but I'd suggest not unless you want to offer to help.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:48 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, please make your comments without insulting other users, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:34 AM on May 14, 2012


« Older I have finally lost most of th...   |  Another newbie dSLR question: ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.