Random Musings From a Veteran Prosecutor Turned Animal Law Attorney

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on March 12, 2007

For the last 17 years, I suited up each day, kissed my wife goodbye, patted my two dogs on the head and crawled into the trenches that are a reality in any prosecuting attorney’s life–too many cases, too few jail beds…You know the drill.  In my nine years as a deputy district attorney and my eight years as an elected district attorney, I have read literally thousands of police reports.  In doing so, I have come to the realization that we humans have an uncanny ability to engage in the most bizarre and unspeakable acts of cruelty imaginable.  Each week, I would wade through a constant parade of examples of the worst in human behavior.  On occasion, I would come across a case where the victim was not from the typical pool of victims–humans.  For me, the cases where the victim was the family dog, the stepsister’s cat or the girlfriend’s cherished horse always seemed to stick with me.  To be sure, child abuse, sex crimes and homicides are the worst, but animal cruelty cases have always produced the same reaction in me.   

With 17 years of exposure to the subject matter of the criminal justice system, one tends to develop some pretty thick skin.  Yet, for some reason I remain decidedly thin-skinned when it comes to animal cruelty cases.  Perhaps it is the pure innocence of their character or the fact that they do not have a choice in becoming a part of the offender’s life.  Regardless, holding those who commit crimes against animals accountable for their conduct remains a burning passion for me.  It is precisely for this reason that the very day that I saw the job posting for an attorney position in the Criminal Justice Program of the Animal Legal Defense Fund was a day that changed the course of my professional life, and I am now honored to call myself an animal law attorney.