Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors During Unprecedented Times

By: Valerie Polka, Humane Investigations Resource Liaison and Officer Angie Fry, Chief Humane Police Officer

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and has made helping the most vulnerable members of our community more of a challenge than ever. But in the midst of such unprecedented times, there are still those who remain vigilant and keep an eye out for animal suffering. And, they turn to Animal Friends’ Humane Investigations team for help.

Beginning in April, our team was faced with a modified scheduled and limited coverage as our organization adjusted to a new way of life. In just over a month, however, the team logged 59 calls about lack of clean water, food, shelter, veterinary care as well as reports of animals with injuries or living in unsanitary conditions. While some complaints came from areas outside of our jurisdiction, the majority of these reports came from Allegheny County.

During these particularly challenging times, Officer Angie Fry has remained on the road investigating these reports of abuse, neglect and cruelty. She has met with pet owners to assess conditions, provide education and, when necessary, intervene with legal action. Like so many, our Humane Investigations team has adjusted their daily routine, wearing masks when on location and interacting with the public by phone or email when possible. Thankfully, we have continued to work closely with local law enforcement agencies to offer guidance about how to handle reports of animal cruelty.

When the stay-at-home order and travel limitations were first issued in Allegheny County, the number of calls our team received began to decline. As people were spending less time out and about, this meant that there were fewer people to witness potential cases of abuse or neglect. But, we knew that there were still animals out there who needed us and that it was critical for our Humane Investigations team to stand ready.

Studies have shown a direct relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence. As families are spending more time at home, there may be an increase in stress, frustration and financial worries. This can heighten the risk that animals – or other humans – in the home could be victims of abuse. As first responders, our Humane Investigations team could be the first to experience and report mistreatment to children, spouses and the elderly. Having the ability to continue investigating reports is not only critical for the protection of pets of our region, but people as well.

As our way of daily life continues to change, we encourage you to keep an eye on your neighbors – two- and four-legged alike. If you see something, say something. Our Humane Investigations team remains committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community.

If you have witnessed animal cruelty in Allegheny County, contact our Humane Investigations team at 412.847.7066 to give your eyewitness report.

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