Norwegian animal welfare organization NOAH expressed concern on Tuesday over the record number of animal cruelty notifications it has received so far this year. Recent cases that have attracted media attention included seagull shootings and a cat drowned in its carrier, while on Tuesday a person confessed to killing a dog which had been found under a bridge, tied to a concrete block.
NOAH has reported almost 40 cases to the police this year, reported newspaper Dagsavisen. Just a few get investigated, and even fewer end in prosecution.
“We have had six dismissals in the cases we have reported,” said the organization’s head, veterinarian Siri Martinsen. “Among others, two cases of killing cats, where the perpetrator was known in one of the cases. Dumping of birds in cages during winter was one of the other cases. No one has been convicted so far, but we have received a message about a conviction over neglecting sheep this year, in a case we reported last year.”
She said the amount of work that went into investigating cruelty cases varied between police districts, but estimated less than 20 percent of all reports led to prosecution. “Even in cases where we have video evidence the matter can be dismissed, which is something we react strongly to,” Martinsen said.
If someone was actually convicted, NOAH argued the penalties were too low. The fine for torturing a cat to death is NOK 7,000, yet the fine for public urination is NOK 8,000.
On Sunday, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported a member of the public had found a dead dog tied to a cement block under the Krapfoss bridge in Moss. The two women who retrieved the dog from the water said there was blood on its body, and it looked like it had fought to survive. The dog was microchipped, and police began investigating to see whether the person registered was in fact the owner.
There was an uproar on social media when a member of the public, May Kristin Grane, created a Facebook page identifying a couple she accused of killing the dog. The page had 170 members on Monday morning, 682 by noon, and 900 half an hour later. “We know who has done this, and we have given them other alternatives,” she said. “At the same time, we feel that the punishment they will get is not sufficient. A fine of NOK 10,000 or jail for a couple of months is not enough.”
Grane said the couple had owned the dog, called Lucas, for no more than a month, and that she had offered to help them find a new home.
Police reacted strongly to the vigilante action, and said people could themselves be exposed for criminal liability when publicly accusing others of committing offenses. They confirmed on Tuesday a man had come forward and confessed to the killing, but would not say if it was one of the people named on the Facebook page. Police were unsure if the dog had drowned or was already dead when it was thrown into the river, and said there would be an autopsy.
The man later told NRK he had tied the dog to a concrete pipe and thrown it into the river, saying it had been a nuisance animal with no real owner. “I did not want it to suffer,” he said. “So I came up with drowning. It was very short-sighted of me not to go to the vet, and I very much regret that.” He said he cried all night after killing the dog, and had been bombarded with hate messages. He said the real punishment he’d face was the community anger.
Earlier this month diver Jan Holden told NRK he and a friend were exploring under Rongesund pier in Øygarden, when they discovered a drowned cat in a carrier. One of its paws was jammed between the bars of the cage where it had struggled to escape.
“This is sad,” said Martinsen. “We have had several cases where animals are being dumped in the sea to drown. They obviously think that they want to get rid of the animals and will get away with it by dumping them in the sea. Burt fortunately they are discovered, and people report it on.”
Wild birds attacked
“There are many types of cases,” said Martinsen. “Many repeat, and some are new forms of abuse. What we’re seeing is that some wild animals are abused, tortured and tormented. This applies particularly to seagulls, magpies and crows.”
Two boys filmed themselves attacking a seagull earlier in summer, and sent out the footage on social media app Snapchat. On Tuesday, NRK reported several people had killed 16 seagulls with an air rifle at a school in Vikhammer, Sør-Trøndelag. NOAH referred the incident to Malvik police, who said they were confident they’d catch those responsible.
Martinsen said part of the problem was the ways the media described the birds, describing their natural parenting behaviour as terrorizing attacks. “We find that animals that get negative proportionality directed towards them become victims of sadistic acts, and that people with a clear lack of empathy find easy victims in these animals.”
Summer high time for dumping animals
Martinsen said cases tended to spike in summer, when people realized their pets did not fit in with their holiday plans. “This is a complex problem,” she told Dagsavisen. “There is a throwaway mentality, especially of cats. We have stories about cats being tortured and going through great suffering.” She said NOAH also often received tips about livestock, left too long without food when their owners went away.
She said the community and police had to take animal cruelty more seriously, if for no other reason than the clear links research had shown of animal abuse as a precursor to violence towards people.
“Even though we’re reporting a growing number of cases, large amounts go unrecorded here,” said Martinsen. “Both in terms of abuse of wild animals and for example abuse of animals in cases with family violence. We know that violence towards animals and violence towards humans hang together.”