It’s Tough Out There – Not Just for the Animals but for the State as Well

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on September 28, 2009

How often have you heard the phrase, “the Government has unlimited resources with which to pursue a criminal case?” Defense loyal lobbyists commonly use this rhetoric to secure increased budgets for indigent criminal defense. However, while this statement may be true in a select few celebrated federal cases, nothing could be further from the truth in the vast majority of criminal prosecutions, particularly in the state court system. Take one example: the Lang case in Dearborn (Wayne County), Michigan. In that case, the government had no money with which to pay for necropsies on any of the more than 100 dead dogs found in the defendant’s home. No necropsies, no way to prove cause of death. No proof of cause of death, no case, period. It’s that simple. Fortunately, through the support of our membership, ALDF has funds set aside for precisely this purpose: to cover the costs of forensic work that investigating agencies and prosecutors’ offices can’t afford. Far too many animal cruelty cases die on the vine due to a lack of resources and ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program is here to change that. 

Sadly, another financial impediment in the investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty cases is the cost of feeding and treating abused animals once they are seized from the offender. This problem is amplified in those states that lack codification of some of the basic procedural tools necessary to mitigate this issue–e.g., cost-of-care liens, bonding requirements or pre-conviction forfeiture options. If the Sheriff’s office is too broke to pay for necropsy on a tortured dog case, it’s not likely that the Sheriff will have the funds to pay for the care of a starving horse out on route 72. Well, the good news is that ALDF will. In addition to supporting law enforcement with the forensic side of a case (e.g., necropsies, DNA analysis, blood enzyme testing, etc.), we also have funding set aside specifically to help cover the costs of caring for those voiceless victim animals. This removes the financial disincentive for local law enforcement to investigate, make the arrest and seize that starving horse. Having this option available to us has proven to be a very persuasive tool when dealing with recalcitrant law enforcement officers who are loath to seize an animal that will require care and feeding for months while the criminal case drags on and on. 

I feel very fortunate that so many of you out there in the blog-o-sphere have entrusted us with some of your hard earned money so that we may use it to help police and prosecutors achieve the best possible outcomes in these all too often overlooked and under funded cases. Thanks for your support!  


One thought on “It’s Tough Out There – Not Just for the Animals but for the State as Well

  1. Gina Leiser says:

    Thanks for this article. As a state prosecutor, I deal with a lack of resources on a daily basis. This is especially a problem when dealing with misdemeanor offenses where state agencies tend to think that the case just isn’t worth spending the coveted resources. And in a lot of states, the majority of the animal cruelty cases are classified as misdemeanors. Thank you for all that you do to help animals and to help police and prosecutors who are fighting to protect animals from cruelty.