Susan Walton received her bachelor’s degree and her Law Degree from George Mason University, where she played NCAA Division I basketball. She has been a prosecutor in Virginia for 19 years, the last 12 of which have been in the City of Suffolk. As a Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, she is assigned to the violent crimes team and Gang Task Force Unit, but she feels just as inspired by her role as the office’s animal cruelty prosecutor. Susan feels fortunate to be in a position where she can combine her passion for justice with her compassion for animals.
Although aggressive prosecution of animal abusers is a top priority, ensuring that an abused or neglected animal is immediately removed from an abusive environment is a major concern. If it is discovered that an animal has been abandoned or cruelly treated, the animal will be seized. Susan uses a civil forfeiture statute to expedite removal of an animal, so that the process of finding a new home may begin as quickly as possible. This procedure is used for domestic and agricultural animals alike.
Susan’s office doesn’t just focus on prosecution, but on prevention as well. Most cases involve neglect as opposed to actual abuse. These neglect cases are used to raise community awareness, stressing that if you are going to take on the responsibility of being a pet owner, there are certain minimum standards of care that must be met. Susan’s ultimate goal is not to increase the animal cruelty caseload, but to eliminate it altogether.
During her career, Susan has prosecuted over a hundred animal abuse or neglect cases. She has pursued cases involving horses being starved to death, horses being violated, dogs with embedded collars, kittens beaten to death, a dog set on fire, a cat set on fire, death of a dog by heat and dehydration, cattle that were starved to death, neglected goats and rabbits, numerous inhumane shootings of cats and dogs, dogfighting, and numerous cases involving deplorable conditions for boarded animals and hoarded animals.
Susan feels a very proactive and strong team approach is necessary for the successful prosecution, prevention, and education of animal cruelty. She is pictured with Animal Control Officer Nicole Munro, Dr. Brandon R. Wichman, DVM, Dr. Robert M. Johnson, Jr., DVM, Caren Barber, and formerly-abused dogs Lieutenant Dan (light brown) and Jada (black & white).
When Jada was rescued by Animal Control Officer Munro, she was severely malnourished, unresponsive, cold to the touch, on a short leash, and lying on a cement floor in her own waste. Although her body temperature and heart rate were so low she should not have been alive, she miraculously survived her torment thanks to Doctors Wichman and Johnson. Her abuser was successfully prosecuted with a conviction and active jail sentence. When Lieutenant Dan was rescued, he had a broken back left leg that had not been properly cared for, and the leg had to be amputated. His abuser was successfully prosecuted, and Lieutenant Dan now lives happily in a new home with Caren Barber.
Susan lives with her husband, Greg Johnson, their 4-year-old son, and two cats, Meeko and Kobe.