Criminal Justice Program

Scott Heiser

Scott HeiserScott Heiser heads up ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program and provides a full spectrum of services to law enforcement and prosecutors who investigate and litigate animal cruelty cases. Scott and his team (with over 60 years of prosecution experience among them) regularly provide training to law enforcement officers and prosecutors across the country on how to achieve the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions. Under Scott’s leadership, ALDF has forged partnerships with both the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) to provide the training necessary to ensure that prosecutors get the results these cases deserve.

A prosecutor for seventeen years, Scott served the last eight of those as the elected district attorney in Benton County, Oregon. He has been president of the Oregon District Attorneys Association (ODAA) and a member of the Governor’s Drug and Violent Crime Advisory Committee. Scott also served on the board of directors for the Heartland Humane Society in Corvallis, Oregon. While Scott has prosecuted all types of criminal conduct including capital murder, he has always found animal cruelty cases among the most compelling cases he has handled. His passion for holding animal abusers accountable for their crimes led Scott to join ALDF.

Scott also lectures on issues related to animal cruelty prosecution and is a member of the adjunct faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School. In fact, Scott was the number-one conference attendee-rated speaker at the national Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) conference, and he consistently receives the highest praise for his engaging lectures. Scott received his JD from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College and his undergraduate degree in economics from Oregon State University. Scott is a regular instructor at trainings hosted by the Oregon Department of Justice and has served on the board of directors of his local humane society animal shelter, helping to fund the construction of a new shelter. In 2011 Scott received the Diamond Collar Award from the Oregon Humane Society for his work on behalf of animals. In addition to spending time with their canine and feline family members, Scott and his wife enjoy sailing, whitewater kayaking, and scuba diving.

Lora Dunn

Lora Dunn

As Staff Attorney for ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, Lora Dunn assists prosecutors and law enforcement throughout the country on animal cruelty cases—from research and written support on motions, pleadings, and briefs to trainings and presentations.

Lora has been instrumental in expanding the Criminal Justice Program’s amicus brief work (“friend of the court” briefs), including such seminal cases as State v. Fessenden (exigency exception to the warrant requirement applies to animal victims in emergency situations), State v. Newcomb (blood draw of a lawfully seized animal as a “search” under the Oregon Constitution and Fourth Amendment), and State v. Nix (animals as crime “victims” for sentencing purposes).

Lora has also been active in pushing for stronger animal protection legislation. In 2015, Lora successfully lobbied for an ALDF bill that allows private citizens to enjoin animal cruelty crimes through Oregon’s nuisance abatement code. In 2013, Lora assisted in drafting one of Oregon’s most extensive “omnibus” animal cruelty bills that set tougher penalties and sentencing guidelines for animal abuse, strengthened Oregon’s pre-conviction forfeiture process, and added new licensing and recordkeeping requirements for animal rescues.

Lora is an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, where she teaches the Crimes Against Animals course. An L&C alum, she focused on environmental and animal law and received the Dean’s Scholarship for Excellence. Before joining ALDF, Lora was an associate managing editor for Carnegie Hall and an editorial assistant for Oxford University Press. An East Coast native, Lora now calls Portland her home, where she lives with her husband and their rescued cat, Panther.

Diane Balkin is a contract attorney for ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. She began her career as a prosecutor in the Denver District Attorney’s Office in 1979, where she has worked for the last 32 years. When she retired from the DA’s office on July 15, 2011, Diane was the Chief Deputy District Attorney (trial attorney) where she prosecuted all types of felonies (including homicides) and supervised a team of junior lawyers and support staff. Diane also served as the “animal crimes” prosecutor in her office where she demonstrated time and time again her commitment to ensuring both an effective investigation and an aggressive prosecution of every animal cruelty case within her jurisdiction.

Prior to becoming Chief Deputy, Diane served as the director of the Complex Prosecution Division where she was the legal advisor to the Denver County Statutory Grand Jury and she supervised the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against the elderly. She has also served as the director of the Juvenile Division and the Domestic Violence Unit. Diane was appointed to the Colorado State Board of Veterinary Medicine in June 2001 and served on the Board for 8 years. She received her J.D. in 1977 from the University of Denver and is a nationally ranked lecturer on animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions with a strong emphasis on training veterinarians.

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