Humane law enforcement is a division of law enforcement that is designed to protect domestic animals from abuse and neglect. In most jurisdictions, humane laws require that animals be provided with appropriate sanitary living conditions, food and water as well as medical treatment when they are sick or injured. Under humane law enforcement, people who commit acts of violence or fail to care for one or more animals that they are harboring can be punished with fines and/or imprisonment. Animals that are considered domestic under humane law enforcement include dogs, cats and exotic pets, as well as livestock such as cattle, horses, goats and chickens.
Examples of Cases
The cases that are investigated and prosecuted under humane law enforcement are often cases of torture and violence committed against animals. Some acts of abuse include dog fighting or cock fighting, animal starvation, shooting dogs and cats with pellet guns and the intentional mutilation of domestic animals. Neglect might include inadequate shelter, a lack of water and food or an absence of medical care.
Criticism of Lenient Laws
Although humane law enforcement likely is responsible for saving the lives of countless animals, many animal lovers and rights activists consider some laws to be too lenient. For example, in some places, a dog is considered to be adequately cared for when it has water, food, minimal shelter and a chain that is at least a certain length. A law such as this, however, allows the dog to be left outdoors all the time, even in freezing or extremely hot temperatures, and to have minimal human contact. To many people, this kind of care is deemed unacceptable and is viewed as not just neglect, but abuse.
Humane law enforcement officers (HLEOs) are responsible for investigating acts of animal cruelty, making arrests, providing conditions with which pet owners must comply and educating members of the public about animal cruelty. These officers are specially trained in animal health and first aid, and they have in-depth knowledge of the animal cruelty laws of their jurisdiction. They also typically are trained in self-defense. Many HLEOs have gone through police training or have backgrounds as certified peace officers or rangers, although this type of experience is not a prerequisite for this career. A career in humane law enforcement can be rewarding but also can be stressful and emotionally trying because of the examples of animal neglect or cruelty that an officer might see.