Long Beach city prosecutor Doug Haubert strongly believes that education about cruelty to animals is the main key to its prevention. This year’s Animal Care and Cruelty Prevention Conference will be held Thursday, March 21 at Recreation Park Community Center, 4900 E. 7th St. from 5:30–8:30 p.m. The event is funded solely through sponsor donations (see the end of this part of the article for sponsorship opportunities—there’s still time); no city funds were used.
The conference, presented by Haubert’s office and Long Beach Animal Care Services, will go further in instructing the public about the signs of cruelty when they see it. Attendees will also learn about caring for their own pets and their rights and responsibilities as caregivers.
“Obviously, Animal Control officers can’t be everywhere at the same time, so by educating the public, we’re actually reducing the amount of resources it takes to investigate animal-cruelty cases,” Haubert said. “Hopefully, we’re saving taxpayer dollars in that way, too.”
Haubert, his staff and many volunteers are working incessantly to make the March 21 conference even more successful than the last.
The success of last year’s conference (Part 1 | Part 2) encouraged Haubert and his staff to follow up with this year’s extended event. “Last year, we weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “We had an overwhelmingly positive feedback from that event, and we’re going to improve it in a number of ways. We’re adding content—it’s not solely going to be about animal cruelty. We’re going to discuss animal care and tips for owners and information that they may not necessarily have, such as rights and responsibilities for their animals.”
Haubert’s first step in educating himself about animal cruelty was to invite Deborah Kanaan, L.A. County deputy district attorney and one tough cookie when it comes to animal abuse, to his office to identify and put together information that would be beneficial for the entire public to hear. Out of this, they envisioned a conference about cruelty that would be free to the public and that would instruct them how to identify the signs of animal cruelty and be empowered regarding what to do and how to report it. Haubert had met former Pet Post cowriter Judy Crumpton around the time he took office, and she had expressed to him the desire to help with animal cruelty cases any way she could.
“She was the first person I thought of when the idea of an animal cruelty conference came up,” Haubert said. “When it came to life, I asked for her advice and assistance. And she gave freely of both.”
Bring your middle-schooler
Featured speakers will include Knaan, who also spoke at last year’s conference about the link between cruelty to animals and to human beings. This year’s content will also be relevant to pet owners both new and experienced and will also be appropriate and instructional for middle-school-age children.
“We think that children at an early age should learn about animal care and identify signs of cruelty,” Haubert said. “The content will be modified to be appropriate for middle-schoolers and high schoolers and adults of all ages. And these ideas must be brought home to the smaller children.”
There will also be a number of giveaways: pet supplies, low-cost/free spay/neuter, and microchips. Several local businesses are donating services to be raffled off or donated first come, first served.
Outrage over act of cruelty
Haubert’s dedication to animal cruelty prevention actually developed from his outrage over a repulsive act of neglect that occurred when he was working as a deputy prosecutor in Long Beach, in 2000. In February of that year, neighbors in the 7th District alerted Animal Control (AC) to remove a dead pit bull from a man’s yard. The dog was grossly malnourished, and there were insects living under the animal’s skin from all the moisture in the yard.
“He starved him to death, essentially,” Haubert said of the owner. The neighbors had previously reported to AC that the dog, named Blunt, was staked in the middle of the yard, often without either food or water. The area where he was chained up and where he had to lie down was muddy and filled with water. The owner went outside apparently only every other day and apparently did nothing to correct the problem.
AC came out and cited the owner, and in an attempt to help him provide better care for Blunt, gave him a doghouse that someone had donated to the shelter. The owner, however, left the doghouse where AC had put it, which was just far enough for Blunt to reach food, water and shelter. But every time Blunt walked around the stake, the chain would wrap around it and get shorter, and the poor animal couldn’t reach the house or his dishes. He slowly starved to death.
“It was a horrible situation,” Haubert said. “All he had to do was to move the house and the food closer, and the dog would have lived a little longer.”
Haubert sought the maximum punishment for the perpetrator but was dismayed when the judge simply put him on probation. “Not even a fine, not even a moment in jail,” Haubert said. “I wanted six months because the severity of the treatment [of the dog] was so bad that we needed to send a message to the defendant.”
It was 7th District councilman Ray Grabinski who wound up sending the message by alerting the media and the rest of the community. People started watching the case closely, and the judge wound up taking the case more seriously. The final outcome wasn’t the hoped-for six months in jail but 90 days instead, and the owner was hit with an order to complete 350 hours of community service and 52 weeks of anger-management counseling. Nonetheless, Haubert felt that it was a step in the right direction; he gives much of the credit to Grabinski for having given the horrible situation a higher public profile.
Now, with one successful conference and a second one coming up, Haubert plans to broaden and intensify the enlightenment he gained as a deputy prosecutor. He thanks his staff, volunteers and sponsors for tirelessly contributing to the effort.
“That’s part of our job as prosecutors: to educate the public—educate judges, educate jurors and potential jurors on what is an important area of the law,” Haubert said. “It’s not just me—I think I have a very good office, and all my prosecutors have a strong desire to prosecute cases as aggressively as possible when the case warrants it. We care a lot about Long Beach and making it a good place to live, and I think this is a part of the quality of life.
This year’s conference is free; no RSVP is needed. Sponsorship opportunities are still available, call (562) 570-5626 for information.
Hope at 64 pounds–but far from a hopeless case
The last Pet Post was a compilation of purebred dogs up for adoption in rescues and shelters. Among these fine organizations was Sunny Saints, a rescue in Bellflower that takes in unwanted and abandoned St. Bernards. Hope was one of these unfortunate gentle giants; her rescuers said that she was an emaciated, neglected dog who was close to death. Her internal organs were on the verge of shutdown (see first photo). Unlike poor Blunt, however, Hope received immediate and constant medical help and supervision; combined with a loving foster home, she went from 64 pounds (that is a very thin St. Bernard) to 108 pounds. She’s healthy as a horse now (and about the size of one). Best news, good Hope is happy now in a loving home with Kristina Newcombe, her BFF—emphasis on the second F.
Hope eternal, with her Kristina
The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.
~ Leonardo da Vinci
Four Categories of Animal Cruelty
Part of what City Prosecutor Haubert wants people to know about are what could be called the categories of what constitutes animal cruelty: neglect, game fighting, hoarding and abuse. All of these categories can, of course, have elements of any of the others. Thursday’s conference will educate attendees on the following classifications of animal cruelty and how to help prevent them.
Neglect is the failure to care for an animal. It involves not providing an animal with nutrition, environment and medical care they need. Haubert said that neglect is possibly the most difficult type of abuse for ACS to identify because there are varying degrees of it and that evidence may be difficult to obtain. However, none of this should stop anyone from reporting suspected neglect.
Haubert added that not all cases are as egregious as Blunt’s; some can be handled with a simple warning or citation.
“Our goal is compliance,” he said. “We want to eliminate neglect and conduct that results in animal cruelty, not put people in jail.”
Hoarding is related to neglect in that some people don’t or can’t take care of the animals that they have but differs by the compulsion on the part of the hoarder to take in every animal that he or she comes across. The pets are generally found living (or dying) in execrable conditions, some to the extent that the rescuers have to take health precautions for themselves, such as wearing breathing masks, when in a home to remove sick and dead animals. Unlike puppy mills, in which money is the driver that keeps large numbers of dogs in squalid conditions, the hoarders believe that they’re saving the animals and can’t seem to stop. “Obviously, that person doesn’t think they’re being cruel to the animals, and that’s where mental illness may play a role,” Haubert said.
Cockfighting and dogfighting are considered as sports by human participants who bet money on which rooster will slash another to death, often with razor blades attached to their feet, or which dog that’s been specifically bred to fight will maul another to death. The dogs aren’t the only animals to suffer in this heartless sport—live “bait animals” such as kittens or rabbits are thrown at the dogs during their training periods for them to shred to pieces. These crimes, more predominant in rural and suburban areas, often go in tandem with illegal drug and gun dealing as well as murder, according to the Human Society of the United States (HSUS). Haubert said that it may be a traditional sport or entertainment in some cultures but seems to be on the decline in SoCal because of education about the matter.
“I think we’ve made a pretty strong statement that it’s not acceptable,” Haubert said. “But it still exists, and we need to be as vigilant as possible, both as prosecutors and as members of the community to make sure we end it entirely.”
Deliberate abuse of animals is the most egregious form of cruelty. Individual reported cases of animal abuse greatly disturb and upset both ardent animal lovers and those who can take them or leave them. When the circumstances of each case is explained, Haubert says, people do get the idea; what’s also important to know is that many serious abusers have also committed violence to humans in the past—the individual who allowed his pit bull to starve to death, for example, had a history of violence and was a sex offender.
“There are many cases of violent criminals starting with animals in their younger years,” Haubert said. “Maybe psychiatrists need to know why that is, but because there is this connection, animal-cruelty cases may be indicators of much worse behavior.” Haubert’s office works closely with the district attorney to make sure that the most serious cases get the biggest punishment.