Westfield Police investigate animal cruelty claims

Photo of the reported dog from the street. Credit: The Westfield News

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Police and animal control are investigating a claim of animal cruelty that had been made on Thursday.

Both entities were called to an address on Miller Street on three separate occasions on Thursday after someone claimed that there was a dog there who was being mistreated by being left outside for long periods of time and that the animal was “distressed,” according to the reports. In addition, concerns were posted on Westfield-based Facebook forums regarding the treatment of the dog, with some suggesting that they may go and take the dog in an effort to reportedly save it.

Westfield Police Capt. Michael McCabe said that several officers had investigated the matter at 5 p.m. and again at 11:30 p.m. and did not notice any signs of cruelty or abuse to the animal, however. The reports said that the dog—a Belgian Shepherd—was fed, healthy and protected at 5 p.m., and then again around 11:30 p.m. it was reportedly “happy and healthy,” according to McCabe.

Additionally, McCabe reported that the police also observed a shelter with at least three walls, as well as bedding for the animal. The dog also reportedly had food and water. According to Massachusetts General Law, chapter 140, section 174E—which was updated in November 2016—the protection of the dog is met if it has a shelter of at least three sides, proper bedding, enough room to stand and turn in the shelter, proper-fitting collar and tethering that is no longer than 10 feet, 4 to 7 feet from the ground and that doesn’t weigh more than one-eighth the dog’s weight.

The above applies as humane according to the law, as long as the dog is not left unattended for five consecutive hours in a 24-hour period. Also, if the dog is left unattended between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., then it cannot be for more than 15 minutes, according to the law.

Police did not report any infraction to this law, as the dog was tended to upon their arrival, which would essentially reset the time of which the dog is reportedly unattended.

Punishment for breaking this law is a written warning or fine up to $50 for the first offense, a fine of no more than $200 for the second offense and a fine of up to $500, as well as the impoundment of the dog, on a third offense.

McCabe believes that while the dog’s care is being questioned by some in the neighborhood, it is important to remember what sort of breed the dog is and how culture impacts the dog’s caretaker’s decision.

“I can see where there’s a culture issue,” McCabe said. “Had the officers thought it was a cruelty issue though, action would have been taken.”

In spite of no charges currently being filed, the Westfield Animal Control will continue to investigate the matter.

Regarding the Facebook comments made in the forums about going to rescue the dog, McCabe said that if you do go and take someone’s dog it is a crime.

“It goes without saying that taking the law into your own hands is not the way to do it,” he said.

McCabe said that if there are any concerns like this, people are urged to call the Westfield Police Department and discuss the matter with him.

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