Interview with David LaBahnPosted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 1, 2014
ALDF is excited to be the exclusive sponsor of the upcoming 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference scheduled for May 5-7 in Atlanta, Georgia. Recently, ALDF spoke with David LaBahn—who is president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), a national association that serves as an advocate for prosecutors on emerging issues and the administration of justice. And that’s why the APA is hosting this conference, which is dedicated to the topic of fighting animal cruelty. David explains, “The reason animal abuse is a priority is the link between interpersonal and animal violence.”
This established link—between, for example, domestic violence and cruelty to animals—has become widely accepted by law enforcement and other reporting agencies. As a result, “Many prosecutor offices are moving from being reactive case processors to being proactive and looking at crime prevention. In fact, the mission of APA is to support prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities. Any efforts to reduce violence must address all forms of violent crime—including animal abuse.” Like ALDF, the APA takes violence against animals seriously.
But fighting animal cruelty is not an easy task for anyone. That’s why working together, and uniting agencies is crucial in this endeavor. “One of the key challenges is building local task forces so that from the crime scene to the courtroom it is a unified effort,” David says. “It does not matter to prosecutors who the investigating agency or department is in any community. Instead, the concern is whether the investigators or officers are properly trained and have the necessary support and resources to do a complete investigation.” Working with the APA, ALDF offers these resources, training, and support.
And prosecutors—the district attorneys who bring criminal cases before the courts—are not the only important players in securing justice for animals. Medical experts, veterinarians, and witnesses are also key players in establishing compelling cases. As David explains, “The next issue is competent medical evidence and whether the veterinarian or other expert is willing and able to testify.” An equally important step is “educating judges and probations as to the importance of the cases.”
That’s why this event can make lasting change—by making needed connections and spreading awareness of these important pieces of the process. “Thanks to the sponsorship of ALDF, we are able to have our 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference. This is an opportunity to bring the national experts together to address the issues facing investigators, prosecutors, and advocates so that cases are properly investigated and prosecuted and all involved are trained.” Conferences like these, David says, “are key to bringing folks together and letting them meet and work through the current issues. These introductions will be incredibly helpful as folks return to their home jurisdictions and then have an issue where they need help.”
Reaching out to individuals and organizations is also crucial. That’s why ALDF is here to help in every step of criminal prosecution. “Not only has ALDF helped by sponsoring this conference, they are available to assist prosecutors and investigators with both technical assistance as well as financial support. When I started this program in 2009, Scott Heiser was my first contact at ALDF. Scott is not only an experienced prosecutor, but he was also an elected district attorney, so he understands the issues facing many of our prosecutors. In addition to Scott, Diane Balkin joined the ALDF team and was a chief deputy in Denver for a number of years and knows what it is like to build a program in a major jurisdiction. Finally, I want to also mention Chris Green and the legislative efforts he brings into the equation. While I do not know whether the fight is tougher in the courtrooms or the capitols, this is something we work together to get good laws that can be enforced.”