Every Animal Matters: the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution ConferencePosted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on April 24, 2014
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is proud to be the exclusive sponsor of the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference—to be held May 5-7 in Atlanta, in partnership with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). Working behind the scenes with law enforcement, ALDF has secured justice for animal victims in countless cases across the nation. Recently, for example, an ALDF reward helped convict a Brooklyn man responsible for setting a cat on fire. Our million-member strong Abuse an Animal, Go to Jail! campaign also highlights ALDF’s hard work on critical issues of criminal justice for animals.
Right now, ALDF is at the cutting edge of animal law in a precedent-setting criminal case in Oregon known as State v. Nix. In 2012, an abuser was convicted of neglect for the mistreatment of 20 individual starving horses. However, the trial court ruled that the defendant had to only pay one fine and serve one term for one conviction—rather than 20. At the request of the state, ALDF filed a friend of the court brief along with the appeal, and the trial court’s decision was reversed, employing several arguments ALDF made in its brief, ultimately concluding that the horses qualified as individual victims for purposes of sentencing. Following on the heels of Nix (which is pending review by the Oregon Supreme Court), the Legislature enacted SB 6 that made this legislative finding:
- Animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear;
- Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize pain, stress, fear and suffering;
Despite these gains in Oregon, and elsewhere, the prosecution of these important cases remains difficult for many jurisdictions. Far too many courts and prosecutor’s offices are under-funded and overwhelmed with casework. Further, it is a prosecutor’s ethical duty only to file charges in cases they feel they can win; if a case is poorly investigated, it can’t be won. Moreover, if animal cruelty is seen as a low priority, prosecutors may overlook these cases. Finally, a case of animal abuse may simply lack the evidence needed to prove that the perpetrator is guilty.
And that’s why ALDF makes it a priority to assist in criminal animal abuse cases by supporting conferences like these and by providing the expertise prosecutors need to put abusers behind bars. Criminal justice is a vital part of the legal process, not only to ensure justice for animals already harmed, but to deter animal abuse in the future by making it clear it will be treated as a serious crime.
At this National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference, some of the brightest stars in the field will be sharing their expertise. In attendance will be ALDF’s veteran prosecutors Scott Heiser and Diane Balkin, and ALDF’s legislative expert Chris Green. Vic Reynolds, Cobb County, Georgia district attorney, will be the keynote speaker. Vic was recently honored by ALDF as one of the nation’s Top Ten Animal Defenders during National Justice for Animals Week 2014. APA president David LaBahn—who was also honored as a top animal defender—will discuss legislative policies to help animals. Check out the full agenda for this outstanding conference.
ALDF is pleased to continue to develop our collaboration with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in recognition of the importance of aggressively prosecuting animal cruelty. These cases must be a top priority for all law enforcement officials. For more details about the conference, visit APAInc.org and register online.