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Cobb County Field Operations – Cruelty Investigations S.O.P.

Cobb County Animal Control, Marietta, GA



S.O.P. 5.12

Effective: March 25, 2002

  1. Cobb County Animal Control’s primary objective when investigating cruelties is the welfare of each animal affected or involved. The needs of the animal are the foremost concern.
  2. When manpower permits, at least one Animal Control Officer will be designated as the Cruelty Investigator.
  3. The Cruelty Investigator will manage the following complaints:
    1. Cruelty complaints.
    2. Animal to animal attacks.
  4. Cruelty complaints will be classified as:
    1. High profile cruelties.
      1. Cruelties involving cases of extreme abuse, i.e., mutilations, shootings, etc., or abuse which results in the death of an animal or aggravated injury to an animal.
      2. Cruelties involving extreme cases of neglect.
      3. Cruelties which have a tendency to generate media interest.
    2. Major cruelties.
      1. Cruelties involving large numbers of animals, i.e. collectors, hoarders, etc.
      2. Cruelties involving puppy mills, breeders, etc.
    3. Minor cruelties and check condition complaints.
      1. Cruelties involving abuse or neglect as a result of failing to provide adequate shelter, water, food, etc.
      2. Cruelties that have not yet resulted in injury to an animal but left unaddressed could result in injury or death of an animal, i.e. dogs chained with ability to jump over a fence, or off a deck that could result in hanging, animals living in conditions that expose them to harmful substances or items, etc.
  5. Cruelty complaints will be considered high priority complaints and will be investigated without delay, and on the day received.
  6. Cruelty complaints will be dispatched or assigned to the cruelty investigator as soon as the complaint is received by this agency.
    1. If the call indicates that an animal is in distress, is in immediate danger, is being subjected to physical abuse, or suffering from extreme neglect (i.e. starvation), the cruelty investigator will respond immediately.
    2. If the cruelty investigator is not immediately available, then the Field ACO closest to the location will be directed to respond. This directive includes Field Supervisors.
    3. If no ACO or Supervisor is available to immediately respond, CCAC Dispatch will contact Cobb Radio and request that a police unit be enroute until an ACO is available.
  7. Emergency Seizures.
    1. When any animal is found to be severely injured or diseased, and the animal’s condition appears to be life-threatening, and immediate medical attention is necessary to lessen the animal’s suffering, the animal will be immediately impounded and transported to the nearest veterinary clinic without delay for treatment.
    2. The emergency seizure of an animal in need of immediate medical treatment will be made if such seizure is necessary to save the animal’s life. CCAC will always be concerned with what is in the best interest of the animal.
    3. It is imperative that animals impounded as “emergency seizures” be immediately delivered to a veterinary clinic for treatment. These animals will not be brought to the Shelter first and then transported to a veterinary clinic.
  8. Cruelty investigations will be managed in accordance with the following policies:
    1. An investigator will respond and assess the situation.
      1. The investigator will attempt to get voluntary consent from the owner to enter the property and/or residence. If there is any question as to whether or not the individual has the right to give consent, the investigator will immediately contact the Assistant Manager prior to conducting an inspection and/or search.
      2. If consent is provided, it will be obtained in writing, utilizing the CCAC “Consent to Search” form.
      3. If consent is not given, the investigator will advise the Assistant Manager or Manager. If probable cause exists, a search warrant will be obtained.
    2. When conditions warrant the immediate removal of the animal(s) from the scene or environment, the investigator will attempt to gain the cooperation of the owner to relinquish ownership to CCAC.
      1. If the owner enters into a consent agreement with CCAC to relinquish ownership to CCAC, said consent will be provided in writing, and will be accomplished by having the owner sign a written consent agreement form and an animal shelter card for each animal impounded.
      2. If the owner refuses to relinquish the animals, the investigator will advise the owner that a veterinarian will be brought to the scene to evaluate the environment and/or the conditions of the animals, pursuant to the Animal Protection Act of 2000.
        1. The investigator will immediately advise the Assistant Manager or Manager of the conditions noted and the owner’s unwillingness to relinquish the animals.
        2. The Assistant Manager or Manager will contact a veterinarian to assist with the investigation.
        3. The Assistant Manager and/or Manager will respond to the scene.
        4. When the owner has refused to relinquish the animal(s) and it becomes necessary to have a veterinarian called to the scene, and the owner then rescinds their consent to enter, a search warrant will be obtained to make entry onto the property and/or residence.
  9. Photographic Evidence.
    1. Photographs will be taken in EVERY cruelty case.
    2. Photographs will be taken by the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office in major cruelty cases involving large numbers of animals and/or in cases involving deplorable living conditions. The Sheriff’s Office will also be utilized to photograph high profile cruelty cases involving severe injuries, mutilations, sick animals, animals that have been starved, etc. The Sheriff’s Office will also be used to photograph necropsies.
    3. The investigating cruelty officer may take his own pictures of minor cruelties to document inadequate conditions.
    4. Photographs will be taken of the environment the animal is living in or the situation which constitutes the cruelty, i.e. no shelter, water, etc. prior to the animal being removed from the environment.
    5. Unless the animal is in a life-threatening situation and must be immediately removed to save the animal’s life, each animal will be assigned an identifying number or letter, and photographed in the environment prior to removing the animal.
    6. Once removed from the environment, the animal will again be photographed with the identifying letter or number while being processed in at the Shelter, or while being examined at the veterinary clinic.
    7. Any injuries noted on the animal(s) will be photographed. The identifying number will again be used to identify the animal.
    8. Conditions indicating neglect, i.e. skin conditions, emaciation, etc., will be photographed. The identifying number will be used to identify the animal.
  10. Animal Shelter Cards.
    1. An Animal Shelter card will be completed on each animal impounded, regardless of whether or not the owner voluntarily surrenders the animal to CCAC.
    2. Shelter cards will be initiated at the scene. The following minimum information will be included on the card:
      1. Animal breed, sex and age.
      2. Animal color and name (if known).
      3. Photograph identification number
    3. It is imperative that the above minimum information for each animal be documented on scene to keep track of each animal impounded. It is also necessary in the event the owner voluntarily surrenders the animals. The owner must sign each shelter card to acknowledge ownership of the animals impounded, and to relinquish ownership to CCAC.
    4. The remainder of the required Shelter card information can be completed after leaving the scene, i.e. address location, date, time, owner name, etc.
    5. The original Shelter card will be maintained in the cruelty case file until the case is disposed of in Court. A copy of each card will be provided to the Animal Care Specialist.
    6. The Animal Care Specialist will enter each animal in the computer. The impound type will indicate cruelty confiscation. The adoption date will be adjusted to indicate that the animal is not up for adoption.
  11. Impounded Animals.
    1. No animal impounded in a cruelty case will be euthanized without authorization from the Manager or Assistant Manager. This includes animals that have been relinquished to CCAC.
    2. All impounded animals will be processed into the Shelter in accordance with S.O.P. 3.28, 3.29, 3.30, 3.3 2, 4.14, 4.15, 4.16, 4.17, 4.18, 4.19, and 5.07.
    3. Animals that have been left at a veterinary clinic for treatment will be processed into the Shelter when released by the veterinary clinic in accordance with S.O.P. 3.28, 3.29, 3.30, 3.32, 4.14, 4.15, 4.16, 4.17, 4.18, 4.19, and 5.07.
    4. Animals being held by this agency on cruelty cases will not be viewed by the public.
    5. The owner of any animal impounded on a cruelty will not be allowed access to the animal for any reason.
    6. Animals being held on cruelty cases will not be photographed by anyone other than CCAC for any reason.
    7. Employees will not be permitted to take personal photographs of any animal impounded on a cruelty or any cruelty scene.
  12. Cruelty Case Files
    1. It is imperative that cruelty case files be managed appropriately and include all supporting documentation necessary to successfully prosecute a case.
    2. The case agent will immediately complete an incident report on any cruelty case. The initial incident report will contain basic information only. All other information regarding the case will be documented via a supplemental report.
    3. The case agent will forward his hand written incident report to the administrative officer who will enter the report in the computer.
    4. The case agent will compile two case files. One case file will be maintained by CCAC and will include ALL original documents. The second case file will be compiled for the prosecuting attorney’s office and will include copies of all documents. At a minimum, cruelty case files will include the following:
      1. All incident reports and supplemental reports generated by CCAC personnel.
      2. A copy of the call (complaint) slip.
      3. Any prior history on the defendant or defendant address, including all prior animal related complaints.
      4. Any history of prior cruelty complaints, cases, convictions, similar transactions, etc. (if applicable).
      5. Veterinary records for each animal impounded.
      6. A copy of the total veterinary bill for treatment.
      7. A copy of the veterinary bill for on-scene services (if applicable).
      8. A copy of the citations issued (if applicable).
      9. A copy of the arrest warrant (if applicable).
      10. A copy of the search warrant (if applicable).
      11. A copy of any police reports (if applicable).
      12. A copy of any witness statements (if applicable).
      13. A copy of each animal shelter card. If the card contains the owner’s signature relinquishing ownership of the animal, then a copy of the front and back of the card must be included.
      14. A copy of the Notification of Impoundment (if applicable).
      15. A copy of the certified mail receipts for the Notification of Impoundment (if applicable).
      16. A copy of the personal service form of the notification of impoundment.
      17. A copy of the envelope of the “Notification of Impoundment” posted at the residence (if applicable).
      18. A copy of the Notification of Impoundment advertisement placed in the newspaper (if applicable).
      19. A copy of all photographs taken.
      20. A summation of all boarding costs incurred by CCAC, i.e. per day boarding costs for CCAC, currently $5.00 per day per animal.
      21. A cover letter to the prosecuting attorney’s office summarizing the case, file contents, costs that need to be repaid to CCAC through restitution, and any other information that pertains to the case or defendant.
  13. Veterinary Evaluations.
    1. Every animal seized as a result of a cruelty investigation will be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian.
    2. Animals that have been physically abused will be treated for their injuries.
      1. In the event the animal’s injuries are so grievous that the animal is suffering needlessly and the humane thing to do would be to euthanize the animal, and the veterinarian has recommended euthanasia, the investigator will immediately contact the Assistant Manager or Manager.
      2. The Assistant Manager or Manager will make the final decision regarding euthanizing any animal impounded.
    3. Animals that were seized due to unsanitary living conditions will be thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian.
      1. Diagnostic procedures will be conducted to determine health issues, i.e., parasite infections, flea infestations and/or skin conditions, heartworms, feline leukemia, feline aids, etc., or any other condition(s) that could be life threatening or detrimental to the health of the animal if left untreated.
    4. Any animal that requires additional treatment, further evaluation, or additional observation for any reason, will be housed at the veterinarian’s clinic.
    5. If a cruelty results in the impoundment of a large number of animals, a veterinarian can conduct the evaluations at the Shelter. The Animal Care Specialist and the Cruelty Investigator should be available to assist the veterinarian.
      1. Any animal in need of further evaluation or treatment recommended by the veterinarian will be immediately transported to the veterinarian’s clinic for boarding and treatment.
    6. Documentation to be completed by the evaluating veterinarian.
      1. The on-scene veterinarian will document his assessment of the living conditions of the animals, or any findings noted while on the scene of a cruelty with CCAC. These findings will be included in the cruelty case file.
      2. The veterinarian’s evaluation of each animal’s health will be documented and included in the file, including all diagnostic procedures and results, and prognosis for recovery for each animal.
      3. The veterinarian’s records of treatment on each animal will be included in the file.
      4. A copy of all veterinary bills incurred will be included in the case file.
        1. CCAC will ask the presiding Court for restitution to recoup veterinary bills, boarding costs, etc., if the defendant is adjudicated guilty of cruelty.
    7. In cases of abuse or neglect with no known owner, CCAC will treat the animal regardless of whether costs will be recouped via restitution.
      1. Exception. The veterinarian recommends euthanasia.
      2. Exception. The costs to treat the animal would be excessive and there is no guarantee that the animal would recover enough to regain some quality of life.
      3. The decision to treat or euthanize an animal will be made by the Assistant Manger or Manager based on the veterinarian’s recommendation.
    8. Animals that have been relinquished to CCAC by the owner will be considered on a case by case basis regarding extensive costs to treat. The Assistant Manager or Manager will be advised prior to authorizing extensive treatment or euthanasia.
  14. Deceased Animals.
    1. When an animal is found deceased and cruelty is suspected, the animal will be seized as evidence.
    2. The deceased animal will be bagged in an ORANGE bag. The bag will be marked with the case number and the investigating officer’s name.
    3. The Cruelty Investigator will make arrangements to have a necropsy performed within 24 hours of receipt of the animal.
    4. Deceased animals that require a necropsy will not be left in the cooler for more than 24 hours.
    5. Deceased animals that do not require a necropsy will be immediately destroyed. The Cruelty Investigator will advise the Kennel Supervisor that the specimen needs to be destroyed.
    6. Once the necropsy has been completed, the deceased animal will be destroyed.
    7. Photographs will be taken of necropsies where the suspected cause of death is physical abuse.
  15. The Cruelty Investigator will consult the Assistant Manager regarding how any individual will be charged in a cruelty investigation to decide whether the individual(s) will be charged under the County Ordinance or whether state warrants will be taken. There are many determining factors to consider prior to making application for a warrant. Listed below is a list of factors to be considered. This list is not all inclusive:
    1. Prior history of offender (similar transactions, prior convictions, etc.)
    2. Severity of the abuse or neglect.
    3. Amount of money expended during the investigation.
    4. How cooperative the offender was with investigating officers.
    5. Whether the offender owned the victim animal or not.
    6. Whether or not proper procedure was followed to make legal entry onto the property or into the residence.
    7. Mental capacity of the offender (i.e., collectors).
  16. Animal to animal attacks.
    1. Animal to animal attacks will be managed in accordance with the policies pertaining to cruelty investigations. In addition, the following policies apply to animal to animal attacks:
    2. If the victim animal is in need of medical treatment, the investigating officer will either assist the owner with getting the animal to a veterinarian or will transport the victim animal to a veterinarian. It is imperative that the victim animal receive immediate medical care. It will be the responsibility of the owner to pay for medical treatment. The owner will be advised that the Court will be asked to direct the offender to pay restitution for any veterinary costs incurred. If the owner has no means of paying for treatment, the investigating officer will immediately advise the Assistant Manager or Manager who will decide whether CCAC will assist with costs until the case is adjudicated.
    3. Photographs will be taken of the victim animal to document injuries.
    4. The investigating officer will charge the offending animal’s owner with Vicious Animals, and any other ordinance violations that apply.
    5. The investigating officer will obtain copies of any veterinarian bills incurred as a result of the attack.
    6. A bite report will be initiated in animal to animal attacks.
    7. If the victim animal dies, the investigating officer will obtain replacement costs for the animal from the owner. This information will be included in the case file for Court purposes (restitution).

Courtesy of

1060 AL Bishop Drive
Marietta, Georgia 30008


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