Animal Cruelty and Violent Crime: What First Responding Officers Need to Know

Animal Cruelty and Violent Crime: What First Responding Officers Need to Know
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2020-01-16
Unit 1Slide Deck: Animal Cruelty and Violent Crime
Unit 2Workbook: Animal Cruelty and Violent Crime
Unit 3Recording: Animal Cruelty and Violent Crime

Numerous studies have established the link between animal cruelty to other violent crimes. Making a difference requires that this knowledge be made useful by fully understanding its implications and applying it to response, investigation, and prosecution.


This webinar’s instructor is Trevor Whipple. He’s worked for almost 4 decades in the law enforcement field working on child sex crimes and crimes against women in various roles as an investigator, task force member, and police chief. He currently provides training through the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) across the country on animal cruelty and fighting cases.


Trevor provides a comprehensive rundown of almost everything there is to know about animal cruelty and its link to other crimes. Specifics discussed are:

  • An overview of the link – the correlation of animal abuse to violent crimes and how childhood cruelty to animals tend to be a predictor of future criminal activity.
  • Numerous studies and statistics that demonstrate how the link works.
  • Animal abuse’s link to gambling, firearms, and drugs as seen in dog and cockfights.
  • How animal cruelty typically is the precursor to or coexists with domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse in a household.
  • Capturing animal cruelty cases better through the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
    • A look into the implementation of standardized reporting and incident coding.
    • How the system allows law enforcement to understand the depth and degree of the problem.
    • The tracking function available that enables viewing criminal history to serve as a resource for investigators and prosecutors.
  • The prevalence of pets in households and how this creates an opportunity to intervene in future crimes.
  • Animal cruelty and its two categories – acts of commission or omission.
  • The animal laws in effect across states and at the federal level, and the agencies that enforce these laws.
  • The inherent vagueness of legislation and terms to familiarize with to understand the scope and limitations of the law.
  • Utilizing standards of care and other statutes that may be used as additional charges or basis for charging.
  • A detailed look into the various elements of case building.
    • Determining the custody of the animal by checking who is responsible for its care.
    • Considering the options to take when charging a case.
    • Observing physical and psychological symptoms and using the Body Condition Scoring (BCS) to assess the suffering an animal is subjected to.
    • The types of enforcement outcomes in an animal cruelty case – from education to seizure and arrest.
    • Guidelines when writing and executing search warrants.
    • Thorough evidence documentation including photographs, labeling live evidence, veterinary assessment, and other corroborative evidence.
    • Taking into account the cost of care if animals are to be seized.
    • Building and fostering good working relationships with different resources for a successful search, seizure, and case.
    • Looking into criminal history and other laws and ordinances that may be leveraged as charging enhancement.
    • The importance of a detailed written report for investigation and prosecution, and how it can help to refresh one’s memory for a court hearing.
  • Other types of animal cruelty cases such as sex crimes and animal hoarding.
  • Various case examples were provided to better understand concepts covered:
    • Serial killers, active shooters, and other criminals who were found to have histories of animal abuse in their childhood.
    • Coexistence of animal cruelty and other violent crimes.
    • Exemptions and limitations of animal cruelty laws.
    • Standards of care – what inadequate food, water, shelter, access to veterinary care, and unnecessary suffering looks like.


Questions raised in the Q&A were about:

  • The basis of the body conditioning scoring system.
  • Cases where no one wants to claim responsibility to the animals.
  • The issue on resources – space, funds and manpower – that animal care and control agencies face.

The pros and cons of restorative justice for animal abuse cases.


Audience Comments:

  • “Animal abuse must be investigated. Treat the investigation as if the animal was a human and you will do an excellent job.” — Robert
  • “Great presentation. I am a Victim Advocate with our city police department. Having a better understanding of the connection between animal cruelty and DV is invaluable. Thanks.” — Jim
  • “THANKS. Very professional!” — Domingo
  • “Can’t pick most valuable–too many important parts! The powerful statistics, the guide to investigating and detailing the animal’s condition, the recommendations for collaborative action. Really great!” — Carol



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



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.





** This webinar has been certified by the National Sheriffs' Association and may be eligible for Continuing Education Units through your POST. Please consult your local certification processes for additional details. Paid subscribers that attend will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Sheriffs' Association logo.
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