Learn how to be a better Good Samaritan for pets at the Sunbear Squad web site.

Guidelines for Humane Action

Click to view video introduction to Gene Field's guidelines for actions to help pets in distress.

So you suddenly find yourself faced with a "situation." You search inside yourself and struggle to make a decision.

Do you wonder if the pet is truly in danger? Would you rather not get involved? Are you in a hurry? If these thoughts are delaying your decision to call, you are not alone. These are typical concerns.

Read these guidelines from Gene Fields and be better prepared.

  1. When in doubt, call. Just do it. Let a professional decide if the pet is truly in danger. A phone call takes just 3 minutes, and then you can move on with a clear conscience. Keep a completed wallet card with you at all times, so the phone number is handy. PLEASE NOTE that each municipality has procedures for animal control and phone numbers change when you cross boundaries. Prepare for emergencies by calling your sheriff or shelter in advance (TODAY) and research phone numbers for all municipalities that you travel through regularly. You can also use your local phone book to look up the phone numbers that are appropriate for your municipality.

  2. These situations are emergencies, and you absolutely must call immediately:

    —The pet is unable to stand.
    —The pet is bleeding profusely.
    —Someone is beating a pet.
    —The pet is in shock. Gum tissue is white.
    —The pet is in direct sun or in a parked vehicle, panting heavily. Heat stroke kills.

  3. Be prepared to describe the pet's condition, the address, and the location on the property when you call. You do not have to give your name. You do not have to testify.
  4. If you can offer help to the pet, ask the official whom you are talking to how to help safely.

IMPORTANT: research your region to learn which animal control agencies and authorities you can trust to uphold compassionate animal welfare standards. While many municipalities are responsible and caring about the animal lives in their facilities, others are quick to end lives for convenience or budgetary reasons. Talk with shelter staff, local rescues, and veterinarians to learn how your municipality would handle a stray or sick animal or a neglectful, abusive owner.

About Gene Fields

Gene Fields is a former Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association Humane Officer in Charleston, West Virginia with an outstanding career record of 529 wins and 6 losses in court. He was in charge of Sunbear's case, and tracked Sunbear's owner across several states to bring him to justice. He never gave up trying to locate Sunbear's owner. And his persistence paid off. Because of Gene, Sunbear had his day in court.

Sunbear's owner was extradited from Indiana to West Virginia in 2003, thanks to Gene's tough-minded insistance to disbelieving Indiana law enforcement that they absolutely must comply with the extradition order. This may have been the first time in America that a suspect was extradited from one state to another under animal cruelty laws.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke kills dogs and cats very quickly because they can't sweat to relieve internal body heat like humans can. Panting is the only way that pets expel heat, and panting is not very effective in many hot situations.

About dogs in cars: when the outdoor temperature is just 72 F, the interior of a vehicle will reach 108 F in just one-half hour and 117 F in an hour. Opening a window 1.5 inches HAS ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on reducing the interior temperature, according to research published by Sanford University. DON'T BRING YOUR PET WITH YOU IF YOU NEED TO LEAVE THE VEHICLE UNATTENDED.

An outdoor pet needs a filled water bucket or bowl at all times. There are no exceptions to this guideline.

In West Virginia and other states, it is illegal for a pet to be confined or tied out without shade.

Gene Fields

Gene Fields, career Humane Officer in West Virginia (retired).