The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases

The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-11-14
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases
Unit 2 Transcript: The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases
Unit 3 Workbook: The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases
Unit 4 Recording: The Importance of Pre-Sentence Evaluation in Animal Cruelty Cases

This webinar delves into the intricate intersection of psychology and legal considerations in the realm of animal law. Animal abuse has been linked to broader antisocial behavior – by conducting pre-sentence evaluations in animal cases, the legal system is urged to look into underlying reasons based on psychology as to why an individual perpetrates animal abuse. This session unpacks the concept of the link, trauma and neurobiology, the value of psychological evaluations, how states implement these evaluations, and treatment approaches.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) Kathleen Wood and Katherine Youssouf lead the discussion. Kathleen is a staff attorney with the ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program who assists criminal justice stakeholders in enforcing animal protection laws and oversees the annual Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report. Kate is likewise a staff attorney with the Criminal Justice Program. Prior to this role, she clerked for the Honorable Kathleen Y. Mackay at the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands District for St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Specifics of the discussion include:

  • The Link: The crimes and behaviors animal cruelty tends to be linked to, the theories that developed over time supporting the Link, and the mental health issues that are associated with animal cruelty.
  • A brief overview of what trauma is, initial reactions to trauma, and how recovery from trauma is critical.
  • What prolonged exposure to trauma looks like
    • The specific behavioral and emotional effects of trauma.
    • Biological stress: What happens in the brain and the body during trauma.
    • The changes in neurobiology which affect the functioning of the brain based on the brain waves observed in people who suffer from trauma.
  • Looking at developmental traumatology to understand how stress impacts a developing child.
  • How trauma’s effect on the brain should be relevant when analyzing and examining justice-involved individuals.
  • The importance of psychological evaluations in understanding trauma and violence underlying animal cruelty.
  • Differentiating between therapeutic and forensic evaluations in terms of their interest, the role of the ally and the individual being evaluated, and the process entailed.
  • The importance of conducting the pre-sentence evaluation to assist the court in making an appropriate disposition.
  • How evaluations are able to identify aggravating and mitigating factors in offending, risks, treatability, and treatment options, as well as decide on appropriate sentencing and strategies to effectively reduce animal cruelty.
  • An overview of the University of Denver’s Forensic Animal Maltreatment Evaluations (FAME) – its purpose, components, the risk assessment tool used, and what the reports inform.
  • The interdisciplinary effort through the Animal-Forward Risk, Remediation, and Resilience in Animal Maltreatment which creates a professional certificate program designed for legal and mental health professionals working in animal cruelty and animal protection.
  • Laws across the different states as it relate to mandating and permitting psychological evaluations for simple animal cruelty, aggravated cruelty, animal sexual assault, and juvenile offenders.
  • Common problems with state laws surrounding psychological evaluations.
  • The positive characteristics and areas for improvement for Colorado’s state law addressing psychological evaluations
  • The treatment options and programs available for individuals who underwent the psychological evaluation to address.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Implementing programs for hoarders to assist with mental health and recidivism.
  • Finding a qualified counselor for animal forensic evaluations.
  • Training for animal cruelty forensic evaluators.
  • Funding and compliance in psychological evaluations.
  • Ordering evaluations and defendant requests.
  • Potential negative outcomes of evaluations in court.
  • Convincing judicial officers about forensic examinations.


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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Too many items to list-it was an incredibly informative presentation, and the presenters did a fantastic job in providing relevant information and responding to questions! Thank you so very much!!”
  • “The most valuable thing that I learned from this Webinar is that pre-sentencing psychology evaluations are an option and a tool that we can utilize to pursue the best solution for pets and people.”
  • “I learned that I have more tools in my toolbox than I was previously aware of as an animal welfare professional. I can absolutely utilize this information in future cases.”
  • “The importance of pre-sentencing eval to get to the root of behavior for effective understanding of abuse and appropriate treatment.”



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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