A cow in corral may just be isolated from the rest of the herd because of a different vaccination schedule, early signs of illness, or a variety of other reasons. If you think there is neglect or abuse, filing a report allows the Bureau of Animal Protection and law enforcement to investigate. Photo by Dixie Crowe.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture contains an investigative unit called the Bureau of Animal Protection.
Their job is to investigate allegations of animal cruelty and neglect in livestock around the state in a support role for law enforcement agencies.
It may be easy to assume that an underweight animal is neglected when you drive by a property, but a BAP investigator is trained to look beyond the condition of the animal when performing an investigation.
For example, he or she will also look at the property where the animal is housed. Is there enough natural forage or has the pasture been grazed to the ground? Is there a clean water source available? Has something stopped the animal from getting to feed and water such as a coil of barbed wire or other impediment?
They can also gain access to the property, interview the owner, and get law enforcement involved if necessary.
Last year, an inspector shared a neglect case with my class. The horse seemed to be starving. However, the other horse that shared his pasture was healthy and fit. After a thorough investigation, it turned out the emaciated horse had eaten Russian knapweed, a plant that was a neurologic poison. It had caused muscle paralysis making it difficult for the horse to eat or drink. Some horses that eat this plant die from starvation, dehydration or even from pneumonia from dunking their muzzle deep into water and inhaling it.
With the steep rise in the price of hay due to drought in the west over the last several years, the BPA has resources for hay and well as a link to the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank, a 501c(3) non-profit, on their website. They also offer short courses on animal abuse and neglect to law enforcement and interested members of the community.
Don’t hesitate to report a case of neglect or abuse. The BPA has frequently asked question section on their website to help you make the report and understand the process once the report is filed. A BPA officer may be the first one on scene or called in after a law enforcement visit to the property.
Once a case is active, the BPA officer and law enforcement won’t be able to give you information about the status of the investigation. However, that is a sign that the investigation is in progress and some type of action is underway which may include assistance to the owner or seizure of the animal.