Animal cruelty can be an entry point for future, more violent, human-oriented crimes including assault/battery, abuse and even murder. So often, however, animal abuse and human-related crimes are handled entirely separately, thus preventing law enforcement and prosecutors from connecting these dots, until it's far too late
Join us for this recorded webinar as Jessica Rock discusses this connection, and the larger framework of crimes behind them.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Jessica, you’re a new presenter here at Justice Clearinghouse… Tell us a bit about yourself.
Jessica Rock: I am honored to join the amazing team at Justice Clearinghouse. You all are doing great work educating justice professionals nationwide and I am excited to be a part of it. I graduated with Honors from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology in 2000 (GO GATORS!!) and received my Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Emory University School of Law in 2003. After completing a staff attorney position for a Superior Court Judge, I began my career as a prosecutor. Shortly thereafter I became the first prosecutor in Georgia to serve on an Animal Cruelty Task Force that combined prosecutors with certified law enforcement officers and animal control officers. In addition, as a member of the Special Victims Team and during my time as the Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Unit, for over a decade, I successfully prosecuted thousands of cases on both the felony and misdemeanor level including homicide, high-risk domestic violence, elder abuse, child victim cases, gang violence, armed robbery, RICO and animal cruelty.
I've been training animal law professionals for over a decade and continually present courses on the link between interpersonal violence and animal cruelty, animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions, dog fighting investigations and prosecutions and updates in animal law. In addition to speaking engagements, I also work on legislation related to animals in Georgia on both the State and local levels, including the most recent animal cruelty law. I am the current Chair of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia and on the executive board of the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals. I look forward to being a part of the JCH webinars.
Animal crimes are a human and a community issue
and the sooner we change our perspective
the better we will prevent abuse to both humans and animals.
JCH: Do you find that justice professionals are more aware of the connection between animal abuse and human abuse?
Jessica: As times passes and we become more educated about the connection between animal abuse and human abuse I do think justice professionals are also more aware. Educational conferences and webinars such as the ones JCH put on are a part of that awareness. Once first responders and justice professionals receive training on the connections it is easier and more apparent when they respond to crime scenes and are investigating cases. But, we have to keep the momentum going. When an animal is suffering, a human is suffering. It does not happen in isolation. Abusers use the animal to control the victim – either with the threat of violence or actual violence. And it works. Other collateral crimes to animal abuse include gangs, dog fighting, bestiality, weapons offenses, drugs, gambling, and more. The FBI started tracking animal cruelty, animal fighting, animal neglect and animal sexual abuse through its National Incident-Based Reporting System in 2016 just like they do murder cases. This tells us that animal-related crimes are being taken seriously by our federal government. And the rest of us should follow suit.
JCH: You’ve worked with a variety of justice professionals over the years. What are the biggest misconceptions justice professionals still have about animal abuse?
Jessica: Yes, over the years I have worked with judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, animal control officers, veterinarians, vet techs, shelter staff and more. There are a number of misconceptions that arise among the different professions but the biggest misconception is the idea that animal abuse is just an animal issue and should be handled by animal control. Many jurisdictions have an animal control but some do not. Animal crimes are about the animal, but also about so much more. Animal crimes are a human and a community issue and the sooner we change our perspective the better we will prevent abuse to both humans and animals.
When an animal is suffering, a human is suffering.
It does not happen in isolation.
JCH: How will your webinar build on previous webinars from some of our other presenters?
Jessica: John Thompson and Dr. Melinda Merck are both pioneers in the world of animal welfare and it is an honor to get to build upon presentations that they have done for the JCH. While John Thompson brings a law enforcement perspective and Dr. Merck brings a forensic veterinarian perspective, I come from prosecution. My job as a prosecutor was to take what law enforcement and the forensic veterinarian brought to me and to present that information to a judge or a jury to show why and how the law was violated. I will build upon their webinars by discussing additional collateral crimes to animal abuse and ways justice professionals and others can identify and report suspected abuse.