The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse

The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-07-19
Unit 1Presentation Materials: The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse
Unit 2Transcript: The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse
Unit 3Workbook: The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse
Unit 4Recording: The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse

More and more agencies across the US are understanding the concept of the Link – where animal cruelty typically coincides with other forms of family violence. With this comes the recognition that the best response to such incidents and resolution to such cases require a collaborative approach. This webinar zeroes in on the veterinarian, law enforcement, and prosecution and how they work together to successfully hold abusers accountable.

This session’s speakers are Robyn Katz and Dr. Kris Otteman. Robyn is the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Austin, a contract attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and teaches animal law at the St. Mary’s School of Law. Meanwhile, Kris is a veterinary professional for 30 years, serves on the IFVSA board and the APA Animal Cruelty Advisory Committee, and consults for ALDF on animal cruelty investigations cases.

Specifics of their discussion include:

  • The value of collaboration to ensure successful outcomes in domestic violence and animal cruelty cases and the different collaborative efforts being implemented across the criminal justice landscape.
  • How statutes on mandated reporters impact reporting numbers as victims typically rely on third-party reporters and the most common reporters of abuse and violence at home.
  • How collaborations improved the number of domestic, child, elder, and animal abuse reports.
  • Efforts from different states to foster inter-agency collaboration and cross-reporting.
  • A look into the investigative process and the different phases within.
    • Ensuring 911 and non-emergency calls for service are recorded, body-worn camera and dash cam footages are preserved, and information from dispatch are all made part of the evidence.
    • Comprehensive documentation upon arriving on-scene through witness statements, written reports, walk-throughs, and video and photos.
    • The different sources of evidence that must be gathered to support the case, and handling and evaluating live evidence.
  • The veterinarian’s role in the investigation as it relates to:
    • Overall animal expertise and insights on the species, breed, standard for care, and husbandry.
    • The nuances and logistics in the investigation to fully capture the condition of the animals subjected to abuse and/or neglect.
    • Information and details that the veterinarian can weigh in on while at the scene.
    • Addressing critical legal terminologies in their reports that can help bolster a case’s premise.
  • Acknowledging the role of unassuming heroes who stumble upon these abuse situations and whose vigilance led to the pursuit of justice for the victims.
  • Common challenges faced during investigation and prosecution and how to overcome them.
  • Several case examples were presented to illustrate:
    • How veterinarians’ insights can rule out and confirm certain diagnoses, articulate the length and severity of suffering, verify the cause of death, and check for hidden injuries.
    • How Texas prosecutors utilize the deadly weapon finding to enhance the charge/offense.
    • Veterinarian’s role in spotting abuse and urging victims to report.
    • How thorough reporting, documentation, and veterinary findings help create a robust case.
    • Veterinarian’s findings furthering an offender’s conviction.
  • Recommendations for veterinarians and prosecutors for better animal cruelty case outcomes.
  • Building relationships with veterinarians as partners in animal cruelty cases and preparing veterinarians for their participation in the court proceedings.
  • Guidelines and other important considerations when handling and caring for animals.
  • How collaborative efforts afford both human and animal victims the voice to speak up and seek justice.
  • Questions from the audience on the need to educate involved professions about the link, how to address such cases, and budget allocation for veterinarians.


Webinars in this Series with the ALDF include:


Or, click here to register and view other Animal Welfare webinars and recordings on the JCH website. 



Resources and Handouts



Audience Comments

  • “The presenters did a wonderful job! Thank you!…I learned a lot.” — Amber
  • “I really appreciate all the information provided.”  — Berenis
  • “That through collaboration with other agencies, physical abuse or neglect to animals is considered a form of domestic violence that can result in incarceration of the abuser. Good documentation is a must for sure. Excellent idea as to have questions prepared ahead for the Veterinarian to be asked in Court.” — Cheryl
  • “I really liked the cross-training between so many different entities, but relevant for all of us! Since the Senate bill passed for cross-reporting in FL, training like this would be beneficial for the child protection investigators.” — Christina
  • “Great information on how to charge and move forward with charges, as well as the animal overlap with human victims in cases and what to look for. Absolutely excellent presentation and thank you so much for the information!!!” — Emily
  • “I am a new advocate so it was helpful.” — Mindy
  • “I am a Children Advocate and I work with Women as well ( Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) I enjoyed it all and really needed the information. In the future can we look into the safety and the well-being of the children. “– Tonia
  • “While I’ve volunteered for both animal rescue and at a family violence shelter, I never before heard about the potential for collaboration between the two forms of abuse, or that there might be special considerations about housing the domestic violence victim’s pet(s) in a way that preserves that added evidence for possible prosecution of the abuser rather than just to make it more emotionally possible for the victim to leave the abuser for safety. This was superb!” — Mary




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.






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