Vacancy at SPCA puts animal cruelty cases in the lap of local police

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 01-02-2023 4:42 PM

A investigator designated to assist towns in Merrimack County with animal cruelty cases recently left the Pope Memorial SPCA, leaving area towns and the city of Concord without an animal control specialist.

The city has been without an animal control officer since before Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood joined the department in 1989, he said.

“If there is any suspected abuse or neglect, the case would be handled and investigated by a patrol officer with coordination with the SPCA when applicable,” Chief Osgood said in an email to the Monitor. “Any cases involving animal bites or dog bites are always investigated by a patrol officer.”

Without the assistance of the SPCA, all reports of animal cruelty and abuse in Concord will be assigned to a patrol officer until a cruelty investigator is hired by the animal rescue league.

“I can’t tell them what to do but individual officers have to handle it and they’re not trained for that,” said Teresa Paradis, owner of Live and Let Live Farm animal rescue and sanctuary in Chichester. “Until a few weeks ago, the Pope Memorial SPCA had an animal investigator. I don’t know if they eliminated that position but they had a lot to do with helping with the animal control part.”

Pope Memorial Executive Director Heather Faria declined to comment on the process of hiring a new investigator.

Without a firm timetable from the SPCA, police departments are left to investigate on their own and if the report involves removing an animal other than a dog or cat, they usually call Paradis.

Though officers can relocate cats and dogs to the SPCA without the help of an animal control investigator, they often don’t assist with relocating poultry, farm animals and, in some cases, exotic animals, which are prohibited in the city.

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“A lot of them won’t move forward and remove the animals because they have no place to take them and they can’t afford them,” Paradis said. “A lot of the time, they don’t move them and they will live in a bad situation for many years if the city doesn’t rescue them.”

Recalling several situations where animals lived in dark, enclosed spaces for the majority of their lives, Paradis noted her rescue doesn’t charge for the removal of animals like many other places.

The non-profit relies on fundraising, donations and the public’s assistance, she continued.

“We help with all kinds of situations, not just abuse,” she said. “Anything other than dogs and cats end up on my land.”

Many of the cases involve owners who died and left behind their animals, tenants who were evicted with animals still in the home.

While it’s not routine, Concord police have responded to calls involving pigs, cows, horses, snakes, bats, raccoons and an alligator over the years, Chief Osgood said.

If the animals aren’t adopted to a new home from the Chichester farm, they’ll go on to live out their lives on the sanctuary’s 70-acres of free-range land.

“We have grown to be the largest rescue that takes horses and agriculture in New England,” she said. “We help wherever we can and we work hard to raise money and gain support.”

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