Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind

Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-06-22
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind
Unit 2Transcript: Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind
Unit 3Workbook: Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind
Unit 4Recording: Stand Up for the Animals with a Case you can Stand Behind

Prosecuting animal cruelty cases can present challenges like lack of evidence, limited resources, sentencing limits, and lack of awareness on the laws by both those within the criminal justice space and the public. Addressing these challenges requires collaboration between law enforcement, prosecutors, animal welfare organizations, and the community. This session deep-dives on what animal cruelty responders can do to stand up for the animals by building cases so robust and thorough, prosecutors cannot refuse it.

Leading the discussion is Emily Lewis from the Animal Legal Defense Fund where she is the Managing Attorney for the Criminal Justice Program. Emily assists and trains law enforcement, prosecutors, and rescue groups in active criminal cases in areas like drafting warrants, evidence collection and preservation, and scene processing.

Specifics Emily covered in her presentation include:

  • The frustration that comes when animal cruelty cases are not pursued for charges and how getting what the prosecutors want and need is crucial for successful cases.
  • The factors that are outside of the first responder’s and investigator’s role when it comes to animal cruelty cases.
    • Prosecutorial discretion which is dependent on multiple elements that the prosecutor take into account to meet the burden of proof required.
    • The current state of affairs as staffing shortages created a higher workload yet poor compensation and how the COVID aftermath impacted the backlog of dockets and prosecutors’ trial experience.
  • The four factors that are within the first responder’s and investigator’s control – investigation, evidence, reports, and case presentation.
  • Investigation
    • The elements of the law that must be proven through the case.
    • How veterinarians’ expertise is central in establishing the burden of proof by looking at the force required to cause an injury, the level of pain and suffering, and aging in injuries.
  • Evidence
    • How the animals are both the victim and evidence in animal cruelty and the specific types of evidence to capture outside and inside of the animal.
    • The importance of uniquely identifying, photographing, safeguarding, and maintaining a chain of custody of the animal evidence.
    • The value in collecting, evaluating, and connecting evidence by involving subject matter experts on the scene, analyzing veterinary records and other evidence, and generating reports to summarize findings, and explain relevant evidence as well as the absence of significant items.
  • Reports
    • How reports provide the prosecutor with their first impression of the case.
    • The importance of being thorough and using language to allow the reader to experience the case.
    • The important components of the report in terms of elements of the crime.
    • Guidelines to good report writing that look into the structure, format, organization, choice of words, and proofreading to ensure that reports are impactful.
  • Case packet
    • The two main goals for case submissions – efficiency and effectiveness.
    • What to include in the case packet to make it efficient for the prosecutor to review and assess and effective in conveying the egregiousness of the crime and making a compelling case that the prosecution can pursue.
    • The importance of being formulaic in case submissions to set expectations and have a greater likelihood of cases being pursued.
  • What to do when prosecutors reject cases submitted to them – by asking for their feedback in hopes of improving or going to their supervisor to explain the importance of pursuing animal cruelty cases

Points raised during the Q&A are about:

  • What is the expert’s CV and what should be included in it.
  • Whether the inability to provide vet care due to financial constraints is considered abuse.
  • How only asking for a witness statement from the veterinarian is a weak point in cases.
  • State of staffing in prosecutor’s offices.
  • Taking a case to a different prosecutor when it’s been declined by another.
  • The specific type of documentation obtained from the veterinarian.
  • Considerations for utilizing videos instead of still photos for evidence.
  • How specialized attorney units impact conviction rates.
  • Compelling veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty cases.


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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “I appreciated the handouts for use in cases and other tips for bettering our organization’s reporting process.” — Samantha
  • “I learned how to gather evidence better so I can give it to my team.” — Nicolas
  • “Case packets and how to organize them!! And reports with documentation!! GREAT topic, very thorough!!” — Jennifer
  • “Thank you for the presentation and the good work you do on behalf of animal victims.” — Jen




This webinar is part of the JCH Summer School Program. From June 1-August 31, 2023, attendees will receive a certificate of attendance via email about one hour after the conclusion of a webinar.

Want to join us for other Summer School webinars? Check out our Summer School Calendar and register today!



Founded in 1979, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are held accountable for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.





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.





Additional Resources
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