HOCKLEY COUNTY, Texas — A woman turned to Facebook earlier this week saying she was worried her neighbors animals weren’t being well taken care of, but she was at a loss for what to do.
“I felt like I was just as guilty if I didn’t try harder to get something done about it,” said Deradah Hamby, who has lived just outside Levelland for the last three years.
Immediately after she moved in, she said she began to be concerned about the welfare of her neighbors’ animals.
“It absolutely breaks my heart, it makes me sick to my stomach,” said Hamby.
She’s called the sheriff’s department several times about the problem, but according to the Hockley County Sheriff’s Office, issues of animal abuse and neglect can be tricky.
“We advocate for ‘the see something, say something’ [way of handling things],” said Hockley County Sheriff Ray Scifres. “If there are obvious signs or you have indications that may be something going on with these animals, we want to know.”
Animal neglect is when an animal’s owner fails to provide enough food, water, shelter, or veterinary care for the animal to survive.
While there are animal control officers in the Levelland Police Department, they only deal with issues of animal cruelty within city limits. Out in Hockley County it’s the sheriff’s responsibility to provide animal wellness checks.
“We ask questions like, ‘is the animal under veterinary care? Have there been any veterinary issues to speak of? Is there someone we can call to verify?’ But you look and see what’s in front of you and see, ‘is this a case where no one is providing food and water or are there signs this animal is being neglected?’” said Scifres.
But if a deputy doesn’t see signs of abuse or neglect, there isn’t much they can do.
“Unless we see something that is immediately actionable, we can’t just cross over somebody’s property line and start taking stuff,” said Scifres.
Scifres said if a neighbor’s dog is violent towards you, your livestock or pets, in the State of Texas it is legal to kill the animal.
“They have every right to defend themselves and to defend their other animals,” said Scifres.
But adding if the neglect is unintentional, they are able to provide resources to help owner and animals alike.
“We are all pet owners, we are pet parents, and like a lot of folks, we have very strong feelings about our animals and the health and safety of our animals. So like every other call, we take it seriously,” said Scifres.
The owner of the animals Hamby was concerned about said while they have had two horses die recently, their dogs only appear neglected because they were rescued and came to them emaciated. They said the dogs, along with goats also in their care, are all well-fed and have the proper shelter they need.
The Hockley County Sheriff’s Department also visited the residence four times last week and saw no evidence of animal neglect but did serve the owner a notice regarding the law around tying up animals.
If you would like to report animal neglect or abuse you can call your local Animal Control Officer or contact the SPCA.