Winning animal law cases rely heavily on evidence, so it is best to go all out on investigation to build a strong case and make that conviction. Virginia is one of the trailblazers when it comes to animal law with their Attorney General’s Office’s own Animal Law Unit and even creating their specialized Animal Fighting Task Force. They take animal law seriously and they’ve come to Justice Clearinghouse to share about it.
Our instructors for this course are two of Virginia’s top resources on animal law cases. Michelle Welch is Virginia’s Animal Law Unit Director and the Senior Assistant Attorney General for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. She is in charge of everything related to animal law in Virginia and acts as special prosecutor for animal cruelty and animal fighting cases. Meanwhile, Amy Katherine Taylor is an investigator for Virginia’s Animal Fighting Task Force. She’s handled over 100 animal fighting cases and is a subject matter expert, qualified on the areas of bully breeds, animal cruelty and animal fighting.
Together, Amy and Michelle discuss Advanced Techniques in Dog Fighting Investigations. Specifics include:
- The characteristics of dogfighting investigation that requires inter-agency collaboration and planning.
- The typical timeline in these investigations and the investigative tools utilized to track a suspect.
- Flyovers as a safe, legal and time-efficient way to get a snapshot of a suspect’s property.
- Using the flyover to plan and prepare for the search warrant.
- Approximating the number of animals on the property.
- Documenting structures and equipment highly suggestive of dog fighting or breeding operation.
- Details to take note of during flyovers.
- Surveillance to gather intelligence of operations and other suspects
- Information to take note of and build on during surveillance.
- Different ways surveillance is executed from drive-bys, trash pulls and informants to GPS tracking, wiretaps, and cameras.
- Using online search to discover more information.
- Utilizing Google Earth to get satellite images of properties.
- Pedigree Online as an insider resource of dogfighters.
- Court records to check on criminal history.
- Google search for other leads and the usual search keywords used.
- Utilizing information made available through social media to gather leads.
- Using an alias social media account for investigation.
- Executing a Facebook warrant.
- Going through phone records and content for evidence.
- The types of content to look for.
- The importance of specifying in the warrant the need to access the device and its content.
- Tracking registries for specific information about the dogs and to prove an individual’s interest in dogfighting.
- The things indicated in registries that can serve as proof on length and depth of a person’s involvement in dogfighting.
- Making copies of certificates and collecting information from the registries.
- Tying up all the information gathered during investigation to connect the dots
- The importance of maintaining a spreadsheet of information on the dogs and people involved.
- Using the database as a searchable resource that can save time in the future for other related animal fighting and cruelty cases.
- Coming with a plan to methodically execute a search warrant.
- Considering other charges to further incriminate the suspect.
- Amy and Michelle addressed questions from the audience related to:
- Factors that hasten or impede the progress of cases.
- Getting the judges up to speed in understanding the issues surrounding and gravity of animal fighting cases.
- Social media tools used for investigations.
- Using aliases in spite of Facebook restrictions.
- Turnaround time for a social media warrant.
- Issues on the use of drones versus planes in flyovers.
- Securing an aircraft and what happens in flyovers.
- Acquisition and use of wildlife cameras for surveillance.
- Best practices when testifying to a case.
This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.
This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.