Members of the New York State Humane Association joined with local law enforcement to learn about how to stop animal abuse. The workshop, titled “Investigating Animal Cruelty” brought in experts to teach law enforcement how to best address the legal and emotional consequences of animal abuse on May 11 at the Sheriff’s Department in Lewis.
The workshop aimed to address challenges in the legal arena of fighting animal cruelty in accordance with state laws that provide penalties for animal cruelty/abandonment/neglect.
As a police officer, former NYS Police Sue McDDonough said when she entered the police force she had to learn about animal cruelty laws on her own.
“Animal cruelty laws are found in the agriculture and markets law and not the penal code and most police officers receive little to no training before entering the police force on how to approach an animal cruelty case,” said McDonough. “I became an expert because I went out and learned as much as I could. I always loved animals and had horses so it was very important to me.”
The workshop was held by the NYSHA, based in Kingston, NY, and was cosponsored by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office and the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. All members of the NYSHA volunteer their time and energy to hold these educational forums. About 40 people, including area law enforcement and local animal rescues attended the session.
The informational session included presentations by Dr. Harry Hovel, a scientist who specializes in semiconductor physics that has taken on researching links between animal abuse and human aggression, McDonough, who talked about the process of investigating animal cruelty from the point of view of a police officer, veterinarian Dr. Holly Cheever spoke about how she examines animals and how the police can help her to determine if an animal has been abused, and lastly the group heard from Assistant District Attorney Brian Felton about the evidence needed from police to take an alleged animal abuser to trial.
“Police haven’t been trained, the laws around animal cruelty, A 7775A are in the Agriculture and Market Laws, right now there is a bill that would place the laws back into the penal codes where police will enter the force trained to handle these cases,” said NYSHA Chairperson Patricia Valusek.
Hovel said he became involved with research into the link between animal cruelty and human aggression about 15 years ago. Hovel has worked with the National Link Coalition, a group that includes researchers and professionals in a variety of human services and animal welfare advocates that believe there are significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of violence.
Some people can ask animal activists why they give so much attention to animals when humans are in greater need. Hovel said people should see the mistreatment of animals not as an isolated incident but an indicator or warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe.
“If the legal system took animal cruelty more seriously, it could alleviate the system from processing criminals for crimes against spouses and other people,” said Hovel. “If we reach these people early enough then the system can get them help before it’s too late and stop the cycle of abuse.”
Hovel pointed out that famous serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Charles Manson have a history of childhood abuse or neglect and started their violent streak with animal abuse.
“No child is born saying I want to kill someone, there are predictors, and we need to intervene before their violence escalates,” said Hovel.
Hovel said fighting animal cruelty would save human lives, prevent much animal and human suffering, protect women and children, elders and lead to far less human violence.
The New York State Humane Association has conducted animal cruelty investigation workshops for police and humane investigators across the state for the past fourteen years, and previously has offered rewards to bring forth information from the public to assist police investigations. In addition, the organization actively lobbies to improve the animal protection laws of New York State.
For further information on the New York State Humane Association and the work it does, please go to the website at www.nyshumane.org and Facebook Page.