Animal cruelty is now recognized as a legitimate crime and has been gaining more and more support from all concerned sectors. As a relatively novel crime, it is not without challenges when it comes to investigation and prosecution. There are also certain things that still require further definition and areas that need clarification.
Back to the Justice Clearinghouse to expound on animal cruelty investigation and prosecution is this session’s esteemed guest, Jessica Rock. Jessica is the Atlanta Humane Society’s Animal Cruelty Unit Director of Legal Advocacy & Law Enforcement Support. As an expert in the field, she provides support to law enforcement and animal control officers as well as prosecutors on the end-to-end process of animal abuse law. She also provides free training for law enforcement and animal control officers, prosecutors, judges, and veterinarians.
On this course, Jessica focuses on specific topics related to animal cruelty investigation and prosecution such as:
- A white paper released by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) that establishes the importance of investigating and if possible prosecuting animal cruelty cases.
- The types of animal abuse as categorized by the FBI and what ‘the link’ is.
- Facts and figures that illustrate the extent of the link between animal cruelty, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and even sexual abuse.
- How animal abuse is used to threaten people, especially children, and elders.
- The typical framework/progression of animal cruelty law and what legally constitutes animal cruelty.
- Misdemeanor animal cruelty cases and examples of which.
- Felony animal cruelty cases where there is a deliberate intent to cause harm to an animal.
- Signs of animal abuse that investigators and prosecutors should look out for.
- The significance of notetaking, gathering statements from witnesses and/or the perpetrator/s and the critical components that must be taken into account and included in the reports.
- Tips on effective crime scene mapping, photography and other important points to remember when collecting evidence and dealing with the chain of custody.
- A case study on an animal cruelty case that provides a walkthrough of the documentation and evidence collection entailed.
- An overview of entomological evidence, time of death estimates and entomological calculations.
- Specific animal cruelty cases such as animal sexual abuse and bestiality, dogfighting, cockfighting.
- Questions to ask pet owners during an investigation or even just to screen them if fit to take home a pet.
- The importance of asking about pets to uncover stories of potential domestic violence, child and/or elder abuse victims.
- Prosecution considerations including those essential in understanding the gravity of the offense, in plea agreements, and sentencing.
- Local resources that agencies may coordinate with and the public may report cases to.
- Jessica clarified the audience’s inquiries during the Q&A related to:
- Ways to raise awareness so animal cruelty cases are taken more seriously.
- Handling animal abuse cases within a federal property.
- Articulating and positioning that animals are actually safe to concerned citizens.
- The cost of the tests.
- Using search dogs to track and find other animals.
- Using the animal/pet’s name in the reports instead of generic “the dog/cat/pet/animal” term.
- How people who have gone through financial challenges get help to care for their pets amidst the hard times.