Every Animal Matters: the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on April 24, 2014

Legally Brief

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:

  1. Animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear;
  2. 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.

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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.


2 thoughts on “Every Animal Matters: the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference

  1. Billie DeVaughn says:

    We have no right to allow people to continue this treatment of animals. It takes awareness, I walk my small community daily, and drive 14 hours, i have reported and will continue to report. Its easy to turn your head, or close your curtains so you dont see and hear. We as a society need to wake up. The phone call you make could be the one these innocent victims are hopeing for. But if these monsters are put in jail we gave them a soft bed, 3 meals a day, medical care and an education. It seems they will be rewarded for the horror they put these sweet babies through.

  2. Dianna Dalton says:

    Cruelty to animals deserves the same importance and punishment that any crime deserves. It doesn’t matter weather it’s animals or people, they’re living breathing beings that matter in this world and they have as many feelings if not more than humans.