Animal cop can help probe cruelty cases | VailDaily.com
Scott N. Miller

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Animal cop can help probe cruelty cases

Bret Hartman/Daily file photoThis palomino was one of 13 mistreated horses seized from an outfitter working near the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in late 2004. Most of the horses have receovered.

EAGLE COUNTY ” The cases were disturbing.

In 2003 and 2004, police investigated a handful of particularly nasty animal cruelty cases. In 2003, a McCoy man was convicted of shooting two of his dogs and burning down a trailer home that had seven cats in it.

In early 2004, a Dotsero woman was arrested for throwing her cat into a fireplace.

Later that year, state officials seized 13 starving horses from an outfitter working on the Flat Tops Wilderness.

In the wake of those cases, Char Quinn, director of the Eagle County Humane Society, started working on a new project, one she recently finished.

Quinn is now an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection, an arm of the state’s Department of Agriculture. Her state-issued badge gives her the authority to investigate complaints and write tickets if needed.

So far, Quinn has been pretty busy. Since she received her state badge in May, she’s had 14 calls of possible cruelty. Two of those calls ” a dog neglect case in Vail and a dog abuse case in Minturn ” resulted in tickets and both are headed to county court.

In Denver, Scot Dutcher, chief of the Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection, said he isn’t especially surprised that Quinn has been so busy.

“Everybody’s always surprised when I do my annual report,” Dutcher said.

Dutcher said abuse cases run a wide range, from physical abuse to mistreatment to hoarding, in which a person will end up with dozens of animals in a home.

“We get three or four hoarding cases a year,” Dutcher said. “Every time you think you’ve seen everything, you see something else that blows your mind.”

Quinn and other animal protection agents can write tickets, carry guns if they want ” Quinn doesn’t ” and work cases alone if they feel its necessary.

But, Quinn said, she’ll call in local police if a complaint call goes beyond a drive and a look.

“They’ve been great about it,” Quinn said.

But why does the county need a state-authorized animal cruelty investigator? The answer involves the scope of charges that can be brought.

“Cruelty laws are state laws,” Quinn said. “The county’s animal control officers can only enforce county laws.”

And, she said, because police deal mostly with laws about humans, they’re sometimes unaware of the laws dealing with animals. But having someone with a uniform and a badge along can come in handy when it’s time to walk onto someone’s property.

“When we’re talking about possible trespassing issues, we can be a resource,” Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said.

It’s not just the police who can use some help about what’s in the law.

“It’s important that people understand that a lot of what they think may be abuse isn’t,” said Amy Davel. Davel, the director of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, is working on getting her state badge, although she doesn’t have it yet.

“There are different breeds of cows that look skinny and underfed when they’re fine,” Davel said. Longhorns, milk cows and other breeds can have ribs showing and hips pointing skyward and be perfectly healthy, Davel said. The same is true of some dog and cat breeds, too.

“We need to let people know that so there isn’t any finger-pointing,” Davel said. “Education is a really big part of this.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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