Prince George’s County officials are emphasizing the need for a proactive approach to educate residents about proper animal care and animal cruelty in the wake of the discovery of a dog that had been burned in Fort Washington.
On June 20, county police found the burned dog near the edge of the street at the 12500 block of Proxmire Drive in Fort Washington, county Department of Environmental Resources officials said. The small male dog, likely a Chihuahua, miniature pinscher or mixed breed, was completely burned and pieces of duct tape were found on its ear and on one side of the body, according to a DER news release.
Rodney Taylor, chief of DER’s Animal Management Division, told The Gazette that his agency handles anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 investigations of animal cruelty per year, but most are related to neglect or lack of proper pet care knowledge. The division handles between five and 20 cases involving the death of an animal each year, he said.
“Most of the cases are what we call ‘educational,’ where people haven’t provided proper shelter, food, water or shots and veterinary care,” Taylor said. “We only deal with cases where a pet has been starved to death or was involved in dog fighting five to 10 or maybe 20 times per year. This is the first I’ve seen of something this severe in a few years.”
John Erzen, spokesman for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, said his office treats animal abuse cases no differently than a crime against a human. Erzen said his office does not handle many animal cruelty cases.
“Obviously, the [recent incident] is under investigation and if an arrest is made, one of our prosecutors will be assigned and will do their own investigation,” Erzen said. “If charges are warranted, we would handle it the same as any other investigation.”
Taylor said the incident highlights the importance of DER’s “Humane Education Program” in Prince George’s County Public Schools to educate residents not only about responsible pet ownership, but about what constitutes cruelty and when to report an incident.
Children typically “know every dog in their neighborhood,” Taylor said, and can recognize when there has been abuse.
“We’re starting with the elementary school kids to try to get a generational and cultural change in the way they think about pet ownership,” he said. “We’re teaching about responsible pet ownership as well as what is cruelty and what isn’t, along with the different levels of cruelty.”
Briant Coleman, a spokesman for PGCPS, said in a statement that county schools “fully support” DER’s efforts to educate children about animal cruelty.
“Cruelty against animals is intolerable,” Coleman said. “That is why we teach children about respecting all creatures as part of our overall character education initiatives.”
The key to avoiding incidents like the one last month is to make sure residents are proactive about reporting minor incidents of cruelty, abuse or neglect so that it does not escalate to a deadly incident, Taylor said.
“With these things, it always starts minor and then works its way up to things like this,” Taylor said. “The perpetrator who did this probably did things in the past that were not to this degree [of brutality]. You don’t get to the place where you can do something like this otherwise.”
The Humane Society of the United States is offering a $2,500 reward for anyone with information about last month’s incident.
To submit a tip, DER is asking people to call its Animal Management Division at 301-780-7241, 301-780-7242 or 301-780-7243. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-8477 or go to www.pgcrimesolvers.com to submit a tip online.