After the Webinar: Connecting the Dots in Criminal Justice. Q&A with Phil Arkow

Webinar presenter Phil Arkow answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Connecting the Dots in Criminal Justice: Preventing Crimes against People by Focusing on Animal Abuse. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: Do you have any suggestions on how to connect the operational silos of state public health, family services, and law enforcement agencies to require cross reporting? 

Phil Arkow: Good question. We’re seeing a patchwork of cross-reporting requirements between child protection, animal protection, and adult protective services agencies. But there’s nothing consistent and it’s tough to get it through those systems. I don’t have any readily simple answers. There’s no magic bullet for it, except it’s all about relationships. It’s about making personal contact with the people in those agencies and introducing them to the link and showing them how it’s not more work for them. It’s not more work on their plate — animal abuse IS the plate because it’s usually the first link in the chain. It’s the first point of contact with a community services agency for many people. It’s additional eyes and ears in the community to alert you to issues that are going on out there. The more cross-reports we get, the better job you can do of protecting children, elders, and anybody else who’s vulnerable.


Audience Question: If animals are changed from antique or heirloom property to something else, how will law enforcement prepare to manage seizures, warrants, and possession? Will they lose the structure we have to get an animal out of a bad situation? 

Phil Arkow: I don’t know, that’s a great question. I’m speaking as a non-attorney, but I don’t know that the ability to seize abused animals is based on whether or not they’re property or not. I’m thinking of the Child Protection Model where children can be removed by child protective services from an abusive situation, and children are no longer considered property. So, I would think that it would be the same issue with animals as well. Adult Protective Services can remove vulnerable adults from dangerous situations as well.


Audience Question: My co-workers and I are probation and parole officers. Every day, we enter houses of convicted felons with animals. What are some of the signs that we need to pay attention to as far as animal abuse is concerned? 

Phil Arkow: Basically, it’s not rocket science. If you see anybody doing anything to an animal that you wouldn’t do to your own pets call whoever investigates animal abuse in your area and have them take a look. You can find out who to call in our national directory on our website. We have 50 state pages, and 6,500 jurisdictions are in there. Also, if you look in our resources section, we have all sorts of guides as to what constitutes suspected animal abuse. It’s usually things like malnutrition, or not enough food, or animals being kept outdoors in unsavory conditions, or not inadequate food, water, and shelter, physical bruising, wounds that are aren’t being allowed to heal, overgrown nails, severe matting infestation with parasites, and things like that. It’s pretty much common sense, just report it and let somebody else take a look at it. But probation and parole can play a major role in this because you are actually on-site and have a chance to see the client and the animals in their home environment.


Audience Question: Do you have some succinct materials that we can use to try to persuade state legislatures? 

Phil Arkow: Same thing. Yes, go to our website. You’ll see the resources tab, and you’ll find all sorts of materials there. And we have it broken down into general link information, and then it’s broken down by child protection, domestic violence, elder abuse, veterinarians, a number of other categories. We also have 5 resource pages on “Veterinary Medicine and The Link,” “Law Enforcement and The Link,” “Domestic Violence and The Link,” “Child Protection and The Link,” and “Adult Protection and The Link.”


Audience Question: Philosophically speaking if the emphasis remains on educating the public and enforcing the link, rather than stand-alone rights of animals, how is it possible to actually change animal law and policy? 

Phil Arkow: I take a pragmatic approach because we have not reached a consensus as a society about animals’ rights. In particular, legislators and funders have not even come close to addressing that issue. And the legal implications of giving animal rights is just such a loaded issue: it affects everything from the agribusiness industries to how animals are perceived in every single aspect of our society to veterinary malpractice. I personally just don’t think that that’s going to change anytime in the foreseeable future. And so rather than, I was about to say, beating a dead horse, but that’s a horrible analogy. Rather than pursuing a course that I just don’t think is going to succeed anytime in the near future, it makes more pragmatic sense to focus on something that legislators can accept – that hurting animals also hurts people — and take smaller steps. And that may not eliminate factory farms, it may not make everybody a vegetarian, but it will make small measurable steps that protect animals and also protect people at the same time.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Connecting the Dots in Criminal Justice: Preventing Crimes against People by Focusing on Animal Abuse


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