When it comes to making the call in terms of charging for animal law crimes, what the statute prescribes is essential, but context also plays a huge part in determining what the charge should be. Michelle Welch is back on the Justice Clearinghouse to guide us in the nuances of charging animal law crimes.
Michelle is the Director of the Animal Law Unit and Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. In her role, she is in charge of all animal law-related concerns and acts as a special prosecutor in animal cruelty and animal fighting cases.
Michelle discussed the following in this webinar:
- How animal cruelty laws are typically laid out, differentiating neglect and intentional cruelty, and the importance of this distinction.
- The concept of simple neglect based on the inability to perform the basic duties of an owner to the animal and case examples that demonstrate inadequate provisions for the animal to survive and thrive.
- Guidelines when it comes to calling in the complaint that stresses providing an accurate depiction of the condition of the animal.
- How animal control officers are expected to respond to calls for service, and the value in handling each one of these promptly to prevent things getting worse in the future.
- The importance of animal control officers’ impartiality and creativity when handling these incidents to provide the best remedy by taking both the dog and the owner’s situation into account.
- How to best communicate a complaint of neglected animals and urge someone to take action.
- How other service providers can report to the appropriate agency/department if they see potential neglect as they handle other complaints in a residence/property.
- Differentiating between simple neglect and gross neglect by looking primarily at the suffering of the animal.
- Giving considerations and courtesy exceptions to owners that are doing the best they can despite their lack of resources or education.
- Case examples that fall under the borderline between simple and gross neglect, and the details to pay close attention to in order to make the determination.
- Updates made to Virginia’s adequate shelter definition which now specifies the prohibition of tethering under specific weather conditions and temperatures.
- Case examples of animals subjected to extreme weather and temperature and pointers on what to leverage as evidence to prove neglect in these incidents.
- Dealing with ‘bad’ owners by de-escalating conflict, following what is prescribed in law, and not making excuses for their inability to provide standards of care.
- The value in educating the owners for first-time offenses to provide them with the chance to correct their ways.
- Procedures on lawfully seizing and taking animals into protective custody for repeat offenses or should the owner refuse or ignore to fully perform their duties.
- The importance of taking each complaint seriously and keeping the animals’ welfare central to the conversation.
- Why we should not be waiting for things to get so much worse before responding appropriately, and how failing to do so can cost us our careers.
Topics raised in the Q&A are on:
- The criminal nature of both simple and gross neglect and the difference between them.
- Taking the temperature of an animal out in the field.
- Taking lack of veterinary care into account when determining between simple/gross neglect and outright cruelty.
- Efforts to increase NIBRS reporting of animal law crimes.
- How tracking for the cases is done, particularly for animal fighting cases where charges were reduced.
- Determining appropriate shelter for specific weather conditions depending on the dog’s breed.
- Ticketing for dogs left in hot cars during summer days.
Other Upcoming Webinars with this Speaker include:
- Feb 4: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills
- April 29: Making the Call: Simple, Gross Neglect or Animal Cruelty? (this webinar)
- May 26: Animal Crimes – The Issues and Problems Facing Small, Rural, and Tribal Law Enforcement (Part 1)
- Aug 25: Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Crimes in Small, Rural and Tribal Communities (Part 2)
- Sept 9: What ACO’s Need to Know about Exotics and the Law
- “The most important thing I heard was the importance of recording everything especially the condition of the animal and finding out the vet’s info when faced with a situation of possible animal neglect or abuse.” — Terry
- “It reinforced my training as an ACO/LEO in animal cruelty.” — Harvey
- “Officer discretion is good to emphasize. I always like to have officers realize for shelter- protection from the elements and/or 3 sides, a roof and a floor, of course, pursuant to state code sections or local ordinances. NICE PRESENTATION!!” — Henry
- “Thank you for this outstanding webinar. I appreciated the emphasis that AC&C officers need to respond to every call, and also the importance of reporting to law enforcement if need be.” — Allondra
- “Great info regarding abuse, neglect and questionable circumstances, and checking and clarification of what you think it is before making the determination. Also, try to work with parties, and follow up later, and keeping records when there are prior calls but not findings and arrests.” — Lezlie