Animal neglect an issue in Cayman

Animal neglect in Cayman needs to be addressed by both veterinarians and society as a whole, veterinarian Lana Watler said recently at a seminar at St. Matthew’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The seminar, called ‘Animal Neglect and Abuse: A Veterinary Perspective’ outlined the warning signs of abuse and neglect and discussed how to deal with the issue.

Dr. Watler discussed the importance of reporting any abuse, especially for veterinarians.

‘Every day communities worldwide hear horror stories of animal abuse,’ she said. ‘Veterinarians are forced to think about trauma differently or at least consider that an injury may be intentional.

‘Usually a vet will follow the ignorance rule – allow one mistake and one mistake only,’ Dr. Watler said.

‘We see neglect almost every day,’ she said. ‘It’s animals left to roam the roads off their leashes. We have more parasites here and fleas, ticks and heartworm. Owners need to discuss with their veterinarian about preventative medical care.

‘Ninety per cent of the emergency calls we get are due to animals being left at large – they are hit by a car, poisoned, or attacked by another dog or a person,’ Dr. Watler said.

Laws are in place to protect the animals, she added.

‘There are leash laws and people need to obey them. Having an animal welfare officer is a step in the right direction,’ she said.

Abuse is not always intentional.

‘There is a lot of passive neglect due to improper care of the animals. If someone owns an animal, they have to provide for their basic needs. You want to be responsible for your pet. They feel pain just like humans do,’ she said.

Passive neglect is more common than deliberate abuse, Dr. Watler added.

‘There have been a few cases recently,’ she said.

Dr. Watler cited the more common cases of neglect and stressed that education can play an important part in reducing their frequency.

‘We see ingrown collars quite a bit. The collar gets too tight as the puppy grows and it grows into their neck.

‘Even with an animal having a lot of fleas and ticks and not seeking out a vet, that is passive neglect. It’s not really intentional but it can be helped if the owner is more aware,’ she explained.

Dr. Watler described the red flag markers detailing conditions that are highly suggestive of animal abuse and cover animal welfare, human and environmental concerns, as well as physical injuries.

These conditions include poor physical state, a collar that is too tight, lack of medical care, dehydration, severe parasitic infestation, poor sanitation, overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, an owner living in isolation or where there’s evidence of animal fighting, bruising, fractures, scalding, internal injuries and untreated diseases.

She added that there is a current move worldwide towards encouraging or mandating vets to report cases of abuse.

‘If you suspect abuse, you should report it to the Humane Society and the animal welfare officer at the Department of Agriculture,’ Dr. Watler said.