Animal lovers trying to hold pet owners accountable for proper care and living conditions are facing an uphill battle thanks to vague animal abuse and neglect laws in Arizona.
Pet owners simply need to provide adequate amounts of the basics: food, water, and shelter which is loosely defined as an area that provides shade making no difference between a plastic dog kennel and a cardboard box.
Neighbors in south Phoenix are worried about a dozen dogs at a home that are not being cared for properly.
A bird’s eye satellite map shows the kennels are packed in tight on the property. Neighbors say the dogs are kept on short chains all day long and with no room to roam and they've each worn down shallow pits in front of each kennel.
"It's an awful life for a dog to sit 24-hours a day on a chain," said one neighbor who asked to keep their identity concealed for fear of retaliation.
Other neighbors say they hear what they believe to be dog fights happening at night, but they're getting the run around trying to find the right agency to file a complaint with.
Most cities around the Valley have limited resources when it comes to investigating animal control issues. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has the largest dedicated department to animal crimes so it gets thousands of calls a year and when investigating reports of abuse uses a check list to determine priority if it's worth further investigation
In this case, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control issued the homeowner a kennel permit but says "kennel" is a broad term used to license multiple pets at once.
"Then basically you can do whatever you want with your dogs, treat them awful, keep them on a chain, as long as you provide those three things," said the neighbor referring to food, water and shelter which technically the homeowner appears to be providing. Until an officer takes a closer look at the dogs to see if there are any signs of fighting or physical abuse, the owner is in compliance.
The City of Phoenix doesn't have a cap on how many dogs you can own, however, the city Planning Department says that neighborhood isn't zoned for a kennel.
Both agencies are now looking into the problem and plan to pull in Phoenix police.
Bottom line, when abuse is not crystal clear, it's up to the person reporting to be diligent if they really want detectives to stay on it and you should file complaints with as many agencies as you can.
MCSO Animal Cruelty Hotline: (602-876-1681)
City animal control contacts:
Avondale – (623) 333-7012
Glendale - (623) 930-3212
Mesa – (480) 644-2268
Peoria – (623) 773-8311
Surprise – (623) 222-4000
El Mirage – (623) 933-1341