Investigation FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) of John Paul Fox, HSU’S Chief Investigator For School or Class Projects or Interview Assignments

Q1. What is the Humane Society of Utah doing to stop animal abuse?

Answer: We have always investigated reported incidents of abuse. We also propose legislation that will strengthen Utah’s cruelty statutes and work with individual cities and counties to propose stronger animal control and protection ordinances. In 2013 we had three bills in the Utah Legislature:

  • (1) to increase the punishment for cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony (it passed the Senate but was killed in the House of Representatives);
  • (2) to make it illegal to sell dogs and cats in public areas (streets, parking lots, etc.) (It, also, didn’t pass); and
  • (3) to make it a violation, except in certain rural areas of the state, to tether a dog or cat for more than ten hours in any 24-hour period. (This was also killed in the Legislature).


Q2. How does the Humane Society of Utah spread the word about animal abuse?

Answer: We use the media (TV, radio, Internet, interviews, press releases, newspapers, our in-house generated quarterly newsletter, our website: , Twitter, etc.) to educate the public and our members concerning animal and legislative issues. Other animal-related organizations, such as animal welfare organizations, breed rescue groups, dog and cat breed clubs, veterinarians, etc. all have their own programs to educate the public about the needs of animals.

Q3. Do you think there is a major animal cruelty problem in Utah?

Answer: Yes. It varies greatly from simple neglect to beatings, shootings, starvation, and death in extreme cases. As we are one of the few state-wide humane organizations in the country, there is no central statistical clearing house where state-to-state statistics can be compared. The actual number of cases, in Utah, appears to remain quite similar from year-to-year, although large-scale incidents may cause statistical “bumps” in any particular year.

Q4. If so, what do you think a good solution would be to animal abuse?

Answer: Education and strong laws will certainly help in the long run. Enforcement only helps, though, after an animal or animals have already suffered. Education is the only true preventative.

Q5. How do you think that animal abuse can best be prevented?

Answer: Education to respect other people, as well as other life forms. These principles should be taught by parents, relatives, educators, and other social groups. Children should be taught their society’s values and ideals with a clear understanding of what is expected and accepted within their culture, as well as what is “taboo” or unacceptable in their community. Acts that are in concert with such ideals and values should be rewarded. There should always be a real and immediate consequence for failing to live up to those ideals and values.

Q6. Have you seen many cases of animal abuse during your time working in your job?

Answer: Yes. As an example, between 2003 and 2012, alone, I investigated a total of 2,805 cases.

Q7. Are existing Utah laws strong enough to prevent the torture and abuse of animals?

Answer: Strong laws, alone, don’t prevent torture and abuse, any more than laws against murder can prevent people from killing one another. Strong laws are important as a deterrent or punishment, however, education is much more important in trying to make people empathize with other individuals and life forms and thereby prevent cruelty from occurring in the first place.

Q8. What is the worst case of animal abuse you have seen?

Answer: That one is always hard to answer as severe cases range from shooting, injuries from fireworks, burning, burying alive, starvation, mutilations, etc. They are all “worst” cases.

Q9. Is there enough funding for anti-abuse from the government?

Answer: The Humane Society of Utah is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable organization and doesn’t receive any funding from the “government” or from tax revenues and relies on donations, grants, bequests, and service fees (adoptions, sterilizations, vaccinations, etc.) for our operational costs. Government funding with tax payer revenue goes to local city and county animal control programs, which, in some instances, also perform cruelty investigations and prosecutions.

Q10. Why do you think pet abuse occurs?

Answer: There are a variety of reasons: lack of sympathy for other life forms, greed, revenge, frustration, peer pressure, etc.

Q11. What is the most commonly abused animal in Utah?

Answer: Purely in numbers it would have to be animals raised and confined in “factory”-type farming and those that are used in invasive / painful experimentation or product testing. With respect to family pets it would be hard to decide between dogs or cats.

Q12. What would be a short outline of a long-term plan that eventually ends animal abuse in Utah?

Answer: I don’t believe that there can be any plan to “end” animal abuse as long as there are people and animals. There will always be a segment of the population that will fail to respect their own or others’ animals, resulting in animal neglect and abuse. All we can try to do is to continue to try and improve what we and other animal welfare organizations have been doing since one of the first such groups, the Liverpool Society for Preventing Wanton Cruelty to Brute Animals, was founded in England in 1809.

Q13. Do you think that the problem of animal cruelty will ever be fixed?

Answer: No. As long as there are people and animals, there will always be some problems or conflicts.

Q14. Is the punishment for animal abuse not severe enough, or too severe?

Answer: That, again, varies with each individual case. In some cases we feel that the judicial system doesn’t take all the steps necessary to insure that the abused animal(s) in a convicted defendant’s custody are given all the protection available to the court, while in other instances a person may be sentenced to jail or even prison.

Q15. In what area of the city have you had the most calls about animal abuse?

Answer: The Humane Society of Utah handles the entire state of Utah, not just Salt Lake City. The majority of our cases, however, are located within the Wasatch Front, as this is where the largest portion of the state’s population resides. Complaints received by our office are generally located in lower to middle-class neighborhoods, although they may also include individuals and their animals in high-income area or might include homeless and destitute individuals on occasions.

Q16. What happens to animals that you rescue from abusive situations?

Answer: As all of Utah’s animal welfare organizations haven’t had law enforcement authority since the Utah Legislature repealed such authority in 1998, “rescues” are typically handled through local animal control, police and sheriff agencies. Animal welfare groups and animal “rescue” groups may assist such agencies in handling some “seized” animals when they become overwhelmed. Most animals, if permanently removed under court order or if the animals are legally signed over by their owners / caretakers are examined, screened for temperament, health, disposition, age, aggression, and then, if deemed safe to do so, are either placed for sale, adoption, or public auction.

Q17. I have read that “over 100 million animals - mice, rats, dogs, cats, rabbits, monkeys, birds, among others - are killed in U.S. laboratories for chemical, drug, food, and cosmetic testing every year.” Do you think there is a solution to this?

Answer: Hopefully there will be computer models, testing using tissue and cell samples developed that can replace current testing methods.

Q18. Do you think the new Ag-Gag laws are good or bad, and why?

Answer: I don’t believe that such legislation is warranted to give one type of business special protection against public airing of instances of animal abuse. Such protection is not provided to other businesses. What if it were illegal for workers or others with inside knowledge to publicize instances of harmful contamination in our drug or food industries? What if workers or scientists were afraid to make public information about produced structural steel that was prone to stress failure or collapse? All of our industries should be open to public scrutiny and review and should not receive special protection or laws enabling them to hide inappropriate or illegal actions.

Q19. I have read that there are Legislators in Utah who want to allow the killing of feral or stray animals. What is your opinion about that?

Answer: Unfortunately, there will always be some people who feel that if they don’t like something they should have the legal right to destroy it without regard to property rights, morals, or use of existing humane alternatives. We have animal control agencies in almost every major city and county in Utah and they can usually deal with feral or stray animals. There are existing laws which allow residents in certain specific circumstances to injure or kill a dog while that dog is attacking, chasing or worrying certain animal species, such as livestock. Other laws may permit a person or law enforcement officers to use lethal force if they are threatened with serious bodily injury or death. Utah laws do not allow killing animals for mere trespass.

Q20. Dogfighting and cockfighting are still practiced today. What is your opinion on this?

Answer: Any “blood sport” is illegal, brutal, and barbaric and is almost always associated with other illegal activities, such as violence, gambling, drugs, weapons, etc.

Q21. What is “animal hoarding?”

Answer: It is when an individual has more animals than they can provide necessary care and the animals suffer due to unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, unaddressed medical issues, or even die. These individuals may also have related psychological problems which need to be addressed. The solution isn’t simply to remove the animals and to file criminal charges. A host of intervention should be used involving animal control / animal welfare organizations, psychological counseling, and health departments, for example.

Q22. What is your opinion of the exotic pet trade?

Answer: The illegal trafficking in, and poaching of, exotic species for sale to the public, game farms, menageries, sideshows, pet stores, etc., creates a host of problems for wildlife populations in general, the individual animals themselves, historic poor care and deaths during transportation from the point of origin to the “middle man” and then to the final seller / buyer, exotic diseases, poor or inappropriate diets, and other related problems.

Q23. Is pet theft a problem in Utah?

Answer: Pet theft is certainly a problem, however, it is not an animal cruelty problem, but rather a property crime and is dealt with under property theft ordinances and statutes by animal control, police and sheriff agencies. Certain breeds, especially purebred or small breeds, are highly sought after in theft cases due to the large amounts of money for which they can be sold.

Q24. What are your qualifications to talk about the subject of animal abuse?

Answer: I have been the Chief Investigator for the Humane Society of Utah for over forty years.