New law requires animal caregivers to report suspected neglect, abuse

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MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of veterinarians, shelter and kennel employees and animal groomers filled the Pottle League for Animals in Middletown Monday for a seminar that outlines new animal cruelty and neglect laws in Rhode Island.

The new law requires anyone caring for animals to report what they believe is suspected animal cruelty or neglect to authorities. The law went into effect in July 2018.

Joe Warzycha, the Humane Law Enforcement Officer for the Rhode Island Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA), was a guest speaker at the seminar and described what everyone should look for in animal neglect and cruelty cases.

“What we want people to remember is they are not the judge and jury, they don’t have to determine beyond a reasonable doubt this is animal cruelty,” Warzycha explained. “The statute states suspected, so you have to have some level of suspicion and concern to report it.”

President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore said part of the new law is a civil immunity statute that states anyone reporting neglect out of good faith cannot be sued or get in trouble for doing so.

“If as a professional working with animals, you come across a situation that might not sit right and it seems there is a possibility of animal cruelty, get comfortable with the idea that it’s your responsibility to speak up for those animals,” Smith-Blackmore said.

The seminar also outlined protocols that animal clinics and businesses can implement if someone may suspect animal neglect, cruelty or abuse.

The law states that the mistreatment or abuse of an animal can result in 11 months jail time or a fine of up to $500.

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