BAP task force update, new veterinarian on staff
In fall of 2021, 13 external stakeholders were convened to serve on the Bureau of Animal Protection task force, including CDA staff, animal welfare organization members, and representatives of agriculture.
Dr. Claire Vaiden was introduced to the task force as the new BAP veterinarian. Dr. Vaiden previously worked at a municipal shelter on the Front Range and has experience with cruelty and neglect cases as well as holding a graduate certification in veterinary forensics. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Florida.
Dr. Vaiden will provide veterinary expertise as requested by law enforcement during investigations and will provide outreach from the BAP to the veterinary community.
Rebecca Niemiec provided the BAP statistics since March of 2021. Of the 99 cases closed, 34 involved sending an investigator to respond to complaints and eight involved the relinquishment or seizures of animals. Of the 43 cases referred to law enforcement, the BAP, or PACFA, 31 were unsubstantiated and 14 owners were provided education, including warnings and monitoring. Additionally, the statistics do not include the 20 ongoing investigations or cases the 100 BAP agents are working on around the state. BAP agents include local law enforcement, animal welfare nonprofit staff, and municipalities around the state.
The majority of cases, she said, were called in by community members. Livestock were involved in 56 of the cases, 24 involved equines, and 33 involved companion animals.
Some of the key cases BAP has been a party to include a Montezuma County case in May in which Colorado Department of Agriculture BAP removed over 150 livestock, horses, and companion animals from a neglect situation, with a preliminary injunction issued; a Weld County case in June in which BAP worked with the Weld County Sheriffs Office to remove 67 pigs and five sheep relinquished to CDA; an Elbert County case in July in which BAP assisted Colorado Humane Society remove 80 relinquished horses, 87 birds relinquished to CDA in addition to 44 birds from a property in Douglas County; a Delta County case in August in which BAP worked with the Delta County Sheriffs Office to remove two cows and five dogs relinquished to CDA; and a Weld County case in September in which BAP helped the Weld County Sheriffs Office remove 11 goats, one llama, and over 20 birds in abandonment cases.
Task force and BAP staff serve on four subcommittees: statistics, outreach to law enforcement and district attorneys, outreach on acceptable animal husbandry, and BAP agent training and communication.
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY PRACTICES DEBATED
On the subcommittee working on acceptable animal husbandry practices, Niemiec said she plans to work with livestock groups to provide outreach to backyard livestock owners with regard to acceptable husbandry practices. On the BAP website, resources about husbandry have been compiled from Colorado State University extension and livestock groups. Niemiec said they are resources as it isn’t BAP’s role to define those acceptable practices.
Task force member Justin Marceau, University of Denver, noted that the resources provided on the BAP website related to accepted animal husbandry practices link to, for example, the Pork Checkoff. He asked whether the information about accepted practices provided by livestock groups is the stance of the BAP and the state of Colorado as outlined in statute.
Dr. Maggie Baldwin, Colorado State Veterinarian, suggested the resources be titled best management practices, so as not to be confused with the accepted animal husbandry practices named in state statute.
Marceau said the statute doesn’t define who is to interpret acceptable animal husbandry practices, which is the topic of litigation in other states currently. The inclusion of resources, he said, implies that those resources are the ones accepted by the state and the BAP.
The subcommittee on law enforcement outreach has compiled a printed resource for law enforcement and the BAP will be providing the first law enforcement training on livestock investigations at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Scott Weaver, a task force member and Yuma County Commissioner asked how the BAP can move forward to train law enforcement without definitions outlining what acceptable husbandry practices entail. Following the meeting, Weaver told The Fence Post Magazine the best practices put forth by industry groups are the ones that should be accepted by the BAP as acceptable.
Niemiec said training includes body condition scoring, identifying appropriate food and water for particular species, livestock handling, options for transporting livestock, and recognizing animal neglect and mistreatment.
The statistics subcommittee is developing case file submission for BAP agents and, through this collection, the ability to provide state-wide statistics. The BAP agent training subcommittee is helping organize the BAP annual conference for law enforcement and current and hopeful BAP agents, providing input on rule changes for BAP agent training, and updating agent applications.
Proposed rule changes include requiring continuing education hours in investigations, including four hours of body condition score training for equine endorsements, a CDA quiz for renewal, and requiring agents to submit a closed case report for each investigation in which the agent uses their BAP authority.
Erin Karney, executive director, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said attempting to define acceptable animal husbandry practices steps out of BAP purview. Karney said outreach to backyard producers is within the scope of BAP.
Marceau disagreed. He said without defined acceptable animal husbandry practices, BAP is unable to provide guidance to law enforcement and leaves potential defendants in an ambiguous position with only the case’s prosecutor to interpret statute.
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