OCEANSIDE — The San Diego Human Society, with locations in Oceanside and San Diego, responded to 1,800 animal abuse reports last year. Most of the calls required pet owner education, but 20 calls brought criminal charges.
One notable case of animal abuse was filed against El Cajon resident Johnson Le, who ran one pet shop in Oceanside and two pet shops in San Diego. Le received five years of probation and was required to perform 80 hours of community service after his three shops were closed and 117 pets were removed due to lack of food, water and needed medical attention.
“There were dogs, puppies, a 7-foot python, bunnies, birds — overnight we had 117 animals,” said Kelli Herwehe, San Diego Human Society public relations coordinator.
A space to accommodate the large number of animals was organized and special care was arranged for exotic animals removed from the pet shops.
Herwehe said the goal of the Humane Society is to stop animal abuse by raising public awareness and encouraging people to report suspected abuse. April is National Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month.
“It’s important for people to know the signs to look for,” Herwehe said. “Animals can’t talk. We need to be their voice.”
Signs of possible abuse are pets with body wounds, patches of missing hair, those that are extremely thin or limping, and owners who keep a large number of animals on one property.
A person striking or abusing an animal needs to be reported to the Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement Department.
Animal neglect is also a concern.
“About 90 percent is educating the public,” Herwehe said. “It’s not intentional cruelty or neglect.”
Pet owners must provide food, water and shelter from the weather for their pets. They must also allow animals sufficient space to move freely. Tethering a dog is illegal due to the possibility of accidental strangulation.
A pet’s misbehavior is often a sign of boredom and owner neglect.
“Training is the best method to change behaviors you want your pet to have,” Herwehe said.
The Humane Society holds monthly classes on pet care and training.
Suspected animal abuse or neglect should be reported to the San Diego Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement Department at (619) 243-3466 or sdhumane.org.