Animal cruelty cases are complex. Mainly because not everyone in the criminal justice system is as versed with animal law, and handling animals poses real physical dangers to anyone responding to these. On top of this, smaller rural jurisdictions may have conservative judges who don’t take animal cases seriously or community members that are so closely knit they’d cover up each other and inadvertently hinder the justice system.
This webinar is led by Richard Samuels and Michelle Welch. Richard is a deputy in the Spotsylvania County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Division and has investigated numerous animal fighting cases and worked undercover. Meanwhile, Michelle is the Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and its Animal Law Unit’s Director where she’s in-charge of overseeing animal law concerns and prosecuting animal cruelty cases in Virginia.
The discussion outlined recommendations on different elements of investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and fighting cases. Specifics include:
- The importance of building a solid probable cause, utilizing technology to obtain it, and ensuring it is factual, intentional, and respects individuals’ rights.
- Investigation considerations such as securing the crime scene, comprehensive documentation, and dealing with potential Franks hearing.
- Managing small rural areas where people know each other and intervening early before things get worse.
- The unique nature of wildlife crimes which results in it being less likely to be investigated and prosecuted.
- The thorough planning required with large-scale animal cases in terms of being creative with solutions, fostering relationships to seize the animals, and securing adequate housing upon seizure.
- Elements to incorporate in the search warrant, ensuring it is perfect before presenting it to the magistrate, and when a search warrant isn’t necessary.
- Considerations for the on-scene operation plan.
- Effective interviewing techniques by being straightforward, building rapport, avoiding accusatory questions, preparing for potential aggression, and conducting separate interviews.
- Winning the chain of command through persistence and offering solutions to the problems that an animal cruelty or fighting case may pose.
- Using the voir dire to ask screening questions and ensure that the juror will recognize the problem with animal cruelty.
- Working with the judge by delivering their expectations and appealing to their values.
- Leveraging plea agreements to get what you need while still preparing for trial.
- Leveraging the expertise and network of veterinarians and how to get them into your side.
- Resources to tap for grants and other support to pursue animal cases that are often not budgeted for in smaller/rural agencies.
- Tips on how to document animals’ conditions in large-scale cases.
- Maintaining a case law binder to serve as a primary reference to help navigate animal cruelty cases and ensure important points are not missed.
- Best practices for good working relationships between investigators and prosecutors and ensuring successful prosecution.
- Identifying animal fighting operations in rural areas by looking at some physical features and paraphernalia.
Questions from the audience are about:
- Handling wildlife issues based on local statutes and resources for such.
- Proving exigent circumstances.
- The legal and enforcement issues with trapping.
- Fund sources for the seized animals if the offender cannot provide for their cost of care.
- Best practices for documenting seizure of animals.
- Federal support for cruelty cases that violate federal statutes.
Webinars in with this Speaker
- Feb 4: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills
- April 29: Making the Call: Simple, Gross Neglect or Animal Cruelty?
- May 26: Animal Crimes: The Issues and Problems Facing Small, Rural and Tribal Law Enforcement
- Aug 25: Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Crimes in Small, Rural and Tribal Communities (this webinar)
Click here to view and register for other upcoming SRLEEA webinars on the JCH Platform.
- “Great talking points. Presenters are very knowledgeable and experienced happy to add their contact information to my list of contacts.” — Robert
- “Validation that these cases do matter. It was good to review probable cause, Miranda rights, investigations. The tips for working with prosecutors and on search warrants were valuable.” — Alyssa
- Most Important thing learned: “Take your time to prepare your case. Do not rush!” — Daniel
- “I didn’t realize that this was such an involved process.” — Nancy