By Krista Koontz, Humane Investigations Coordinator
People often ask our Humane Society Police Officers what happens to animals seized as part of a Humane Investigations case. Many are concerned that these animals will be euthanized or required to spend the duration of their investigations and court proceedings in cages. While we have to make special considerations for animals who are part of Humane Investigations, they are provided with the same high standard of care as all the pets we help at Animal Friends.
In Pennsylvania, animals are legally considered personal property, giving the animal owner specific legal rights throughout the course of the investigation. As a result, if the owner does not surrender their animal during an investigation or if we are unsure who owns the animal, Humane Society Police Officers are legally required to hold the animal until the courts order the officer to assume the animal’s ownership, the owner voluntarily relinquishes the animal’s ownership or until all avenues are exhausted to determine the animal’s owner and no one has come forward. During this time, the officer is legally responsible for the animal’s well-being and must ensure that the animal receives necessary medical care, proper housing, food and water.
Oftentimes, the animal serves as evidence of a crime. This is especially true in cases of neglect and abuse. Humane officers often document the animal’s ongoing condition and treatment, while ensuring that they are properly handled as evidence and safeguarded so that their case may be presented in court. Sometimes this is a very involved process that requires careful monitoring of the animal during medical treatment, as well as throughout recovery and the remainder of the investigation.
Here at Animal Friends, caring for animals admitted through Humane Investigations cases is of the utmost importance. Since these animals may be with us for an extended time before being made available for adoption, we ensure that they are given the best possible care. This often means that animals who are part of an investigation move into specialized foster homes. Experienced foster volunteers are trained to understand the legal requirements that humane officers have to uphold during investigations, along with the rules and restrictions in place when fostering a Humane Investigation animal. Most importantly, these fosters provide warm and loving homes for animals in need during the lengthy investigation and court process.
If you have witnessed animal cruelty in Allegheny County, contact our Humane Investigations team to give your eyewitness report at 412.847.7066.