Large-scale animal cases that involve seizures may seem like an overwhelming operation. Any law enforcement or animal control officer may find themselves daunted by what it will entail and the thought that even when you come prepared, there might still be unexpected things that will occur.
Joining Justice Clearinghouse to provide a walkthrough of large-scale animal cruelty seizures is Jessica Johnson. She is the Director of Animal Crimes for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) working with local and federal criminal justice entities to facilitate animal rescue from abuse and cruelty. With 15 years’ worth of experience working in the field of animal welfare, she’s been involved in countless animal cruelty cases and led one of the largest documented cat hoarding cases in the US.
Points tackled on this webinar include:
- Lessons learned from the Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary case that required the seizure of hundreds of cat.
- Factors to take into account when dealing with large-scale animal seizures which look at the species, condition and number of animals, and the resources available for the operation.
- The entities that are typically involved in large-scale seizures and the agreements that must be put into place to define each stakeholder’s responsibilities.
- Pre-seizure planning: the tasks, supplies, logistics, staffing, facility, and other specifications that must be considered.
- Drafting and securing a comprehensive search warrant to ensure search and seizure is within legal bounds.
- Planning and coordination between the stakeholders before the search and seizure.
- Tips that ensure thorough evidence collection including the identification of live evidence and utilizing photo and video documentation.
- Veterinary procedures that may be conducted on the scene and the subsequent examinations that must be done to the seized animals once in the shelter.
- The paperwork involved to ensure comprehensive evidence collection and chain of custody.
- Caring for animals after the seizure by providing basic care requirements as well as enrichment to acclimate the animals to their environment.
- Leveraging media to tell your story and mobilize support from the community when it comes to caring for the seized animals.
- Guidelines on what elements are typically required for the prosecutor to evaluate and build a strong case.
- The statutes to use as the basis for the charges and other sentencing considerations such as covering the cost of care, number of charges, and plea agreements, among others.
Webinar participants had questions for Jessica on:
- The need to condemn the property due to structural, safety, and health concerns.
- The difference between MOUs and MAAs.
- Using the framework discussed even in smaller-scale seizure operations to establish protocols.
- Finding empty/available structures/properties that may be used as a temporary shelter.
- The number of veterinarians required on the scene, and the qualifications/experience they must have.
- Using personal phones for evidence collection and documentation.
Resources and Handouts
- “The webinar was very informative and thought-provoking. Thank you for the awesome discussion!” — Asia
- “This webinar clearly explained the process and how to prepare for these types of seizures.” — Barbara
- “Great Information. There is a lot to seizures we do not always think about.” — Carrie
- “The Entire Webinar was Excellent.” — Desiree
- “A lot of practical tips offered from experience.” — Gwynn
- “All the investigative steps that should be taken to ensure a successful prosecution in a cruelty/neglect case was very informative. This topic was presented well and covered a lot of useful information for the field. Thank you.” — Jessica
- “We’ve done large animal abuse/cruelty seizures–I now more greatly appreciate all the hours of prep work our humane officers did!” — Marilyn
- “Large scale cruelty case details and info; very helpful; Thank you so much!” — David
- “I’ve been in the animal field since the ’80s and it was refreshing to hear that people are still out there doing what I did back in the day. I love how she stressed the importance of photographing the scene before the removal of animals or anything, take the pictures in the triples, the importance of documentation, partners, and the briefing before and after the seizures. As well as have resources in place, whether its locations of housing, knowledgeable people to assist, supplies needed, and to always remain professional.” — Terri