Typically, the topic of bestiality elicits discomfort if not downright disgust. But avoiding the uneasy feeling doesn’t make the issue go away. Animal sexual abuse cases must be addressed head-on, investigated and prosecuted accordingly. This session lays out the whats, hows, and whys of investigating and prosecuting animal sexual abuse.
A familiar resource speaker here in Justice Clearinghouse, Michelle Welch is the Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Director of its Animal Law Unit. She is Virginia’s resident expert when it comes to all things animal law and serves as a special prosecutor for animal cruelty and fighting cases.
Some of the points discussed in this webinar include:
- What encompasses sexual abuse of an animal, and why it is important to treat these cases like any other crime.
- Factors that pose challenges in investigating and prosecuting animal sexual abuse/bestiality/crimes against nature.
- Studies that provide an overview of how committing crimes on animals escalate to committing crimes on people.
- Red flags that may indicate that a person is involved in animal sexual abuse.
- Understanding the scope and limitation of existing laws to assist in investigating and prosecuting these cases.
- The different types of crimes that are found to be linked to animal sexual abuse perpetration, from trespassing to child sexual abuse, and studies that outline these.
- Zeroing in on the link of animal sexual abuse to child and adult sexual abuse, statistics that highlight the correlation, the offenders’ profile, and the victim injury.
- Outlining guidelines on investigation procedures and critical points.
- Understanding terminologies used by those involved in the bestiality community.
- Common vectors in which animal sexual abuse may be discovered.
- How technology plays a key role in crimes of these nature and how to use technology to investigation’s advantage.
- Investigating other potentially linked characters like breeders and veterinarians as well as observing the dog’s behavior.
- Overcoming the repugnance people – from responders to judges – may have when dealing with animal sexual abuse.
- Digital, paper and live evidence that must be included in search warrants.
- Crime Scene 101: Identifying, collecting and documenting evidence critical to building a robust case for prosecution.
- The importance of effective interviewing strategies for both law enforcement and animal control officers in these cases.
- Medical and forensic examinations and procedures to conduct on both the animals and the perpetrator.
- Prosecution tips that emphasize the importance of avoiding pleas, maximizing plea agreements, getting the judge and/or jury to see and understand what happened, and dealing with juvenile offenders.
- Numerous case examples were also provided to better explain concepts.
Audience questions were about:
- The Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
- The nature of the offense for crush videos.
- Prosecuting minors for animal sexual abuse.
- Awareness, prevalence and reporting of these incidents.
- Resources for veterinarians for forensic evaluations.
- Specifying both live and dead animals in animal sexual abuse laws.
- “The animals are just as much a victim as humans and animal sexual abuse can lead to the abuse of humans.” — Carmella
- “It was a good webinar from attorney perspective and legal options. …Overall it was an excellent webinar.” — Jagjit
- “The stat of animal sexual abusers becoming human sexual abusers is staggering. Reinforcing the belief that these cases should NOT be pleaded down to non-animal or non-sexual offenses was also reassuring.” — Dana
- “A how-to is valuable. Too often we focus on “what it is” and not “how to investigate”. Excellent training.” — Joye
- “I was particularly pleased with the awareness and guidance on proper evidence collection and protection.” — Jay