Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Suffering livestock need better protection
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 21, 2013 at 4:21 a.m.
The Crossroads is an area steeped in the tradition of agriculture. Our area is home to ranches with livestock of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, with the large population of livestock, there are sometimes incidents of animal cruelty.
Victoria saw one of these incidents end in the deaths of two horses Sept. 4. Neighbors of a pasture on the 400 block of Raab Road had called to report the poor condition of three horses for the past few months. Every time, officials would respond and examine the animals, sometimes leaving food and water for them, but no one seemed to know the proper procedure for dealing with the situation further.
This situation is frustrating and disappointing to see. After months of reports from citizens and confirmation from deputies who even photographed the animals and their conditions, nothing was done until one horse died in the pasture, and another died after it was taken by the Victoria City/County Animal Control. This points to a major hole in our city and county's policies that needs to be addressed. Given Victoria's agricultural surroundings, we are astonished that it has not been clearly laid out before.
In a previous article examining the situation, both the Victoria County Sheriff's Office and Victoria City/County Animal Control have conflicting ideas about who should be notified and how an investigation should be opened. Heather Kern, assistant supervisor for the Victoria County Animal Control, said residents should call the county for animals outside the city and animal control for those inside. Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said he would prefer a policy where residents call his office first.
In the same article, O'Connor encouraged residents to push their elected officials for a clarified policy and increased resources to help handle animal cruelty calls. We couldn't agree more. It is inconceivable to think a community like Victoria, which is surrounded by ranches and even has livestock including horses, cattle, chicken, donkeys and more inside city limits, lacks a clear procedure for addressing animal cruelty calls. Other cities, including Houston, which is routinely featured on Animal Planet, have departments dedicated to investigating cruelty cases and are empowered to remove animals if officials believe their lives are in danger.
We applaud O'Connor for opening his own ranch to house some of the livestock rescued from abuse or neglect. His willingness to help using his own personal resources is commendable. However, that is still a temporary solution. Victoria officials need to find a way to better provide for animal control so more animals can be housed and cared for.
It is time for officials in Victoria County to sit down and create clear guidelines and policies for handling animal cruelty cases. A situation like the incident at Raab Road is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue. Setting out a clear policy will do away with any questions about jurisdiction or handling investigations and allow for quicker action that will save animals' lives.
Livestock, pets and other animals rely on humans to be good and responsible owners. The most important things anyone can do are to make sure you are ready and able to properly care for your animals. If not, sell them to someone who can.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.