BAP kicks off law enforcement trainings
Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection director Rebecca Niemiec said her department facilitated the first of several trainings for law enforcement agencies. The first was in Lincoln County for the Sheriff’s Department where they learned how to better determine signs of animal abuse and neglect.
The goal of the trainings, Niemiec said, is to introduce the BAP and recognizing and responding to cases of animal neglect and mistreatment.
“The goal of these training are two fold,” she said. “We want to provide law enforcement with information on the BAP program and when to call us and how we can help but also to provide law enforcement with tips on identifying cases of livestock and equine mistreatment and responding to these cases.”
A state veterinarian leads a portion of the training with information about determining body score condition, emaciation, signs of dehydration, and recognizing safe living conditions. The BAP staff also provides training on how to move forward with an investigation and how to offer assistance or education to the owner. Another important aspect of the training involves animal handling and training for cases when the animals are surrendered or removed and must be moved to another facility.
“In addition, we will be bringing in animals or having our partner BAP agents bring animals to do hands-on handling and body condition scoring,” she said. “We’re also using this as an opportunity to introduce some of our BAP agents as well, in addition to our staff at CDA.”
Niemiec said investigations begin with a conversation with the reporting party, and as often as possible, a discussion with the animal owner and their veterinarian. Identifying emaciated or dehydrated animals, unsafe or unsanitary living conditions, untreated wounds or illnesses, and lack of feed and water are addressed through education and warnings, and if the case requires further action, the state veterinarian and BAP investigators will visit the property to view the animals, in cooperation with local veterinarians and law enforcement. The investigations often take weeks and months because it also involves following up with support and education to ensure the proper actions are taken by the animal owners.
EDUCATION AND TRENDS
One of Niemiec’s goals is the collection of data about the nature of cases and the changing trends and patterns, but she said few involve production agriculture.
“Many of the cases we’re seeing and dealing with involve hoarding or backyard owners of animals that are really lacking education on proper care or who have really fallen into difficult times,” she said. “This is really the bulk of the cases that we’re dealing with. We’re not really dealing with traditional production and ranching.”
Niemiec said the BAP website has a number of species-specific animal care resources available and is planning an initiative to partner with industry and community partners to provide outreach and education to backyard livestock owners.
She said one of the goals is to partner and share existing resources from industry experts to aid livestock owners in learning best practices, and to aid law enforcement in identifying and addressing abuse and neglect cases.
Mental health challenges, she said, play a role in many cases of animal abuse and mistreatment. Recognizing those challenges can help address them as they arise, but also be key in preventing the situation.
Niemiec said there is a growing body of research about the connection between mental health and animal abuse, and the BAP is seeing a general trend in that direction.
“One of our priorities in our strategic plan over the coming years is to explore how we can provide animal care resources and mental health support to people in crisis to prevent animal neglect and mistreatment,” she said. “It’s something we’re actively working on to best address the link when we’re out in the field, but also thinking about prevention efforts and getting resources to people in advance.”
The BAP conference for BAP agents and law enforcement will be hosted Feb. 2 and 3 and that agenda will be released in the upcoming weeks.