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Building Successful Animal Cruelty Cases from the Crime Scene to Court Room: Training Washington State Law Enforcement Officers and Prosecutors

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors who respond to crimes against animals face a host of unique challenges. Not only can animal cruelty laws themselves be convoluted, but investigating and prosecuting these cases involves confronting issues that arise rarely (if ever) in other criminal cases. From neglected cows who are unable to testify about the crimes against them, to dog fighting ‘evidence’ having puppies, the unexpected is a matter of course in the struggle against animal cruelty.

That’s why the support that the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s expert attorneys provide to prosecutors and law enforcement officers is so important. Attorneys in our Criminal Justice Program not only assist with pending criminal cases but also provide proactive trainings that lower the barriers to holding criminal animal abusers accountable.

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Animal Legal Defense Fund Attorneys David B. Rosengard and Diane Balkin

The Animal Legal Defense Fund routinely offers these trainings across the country. At the invitation of Pasado’s Safe Haven—a non-profit with over two decades of experience assisting Washington law enforcement by investigating and responding to animal cruelty cases—Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys conducted a full day of training in October for prosecutors and law enforcement officers from around Washington State. The training walked officials through each step of an animal cruelty case from crime scene to court room.

In addition to reviewing Washington’s animal cruelty laws, Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys also worked with attendees to address practical challenges in responding to animal cruelty. One training segment focused specifically on how to remove animal crime victims from harm’s way: properly seizing animals from crime scenes, ensuring that they receive necessary care, and taking steps to address where they live pending trial. Other sessions looked specifically at trial issues: from jury selection, to presenting animal cruelty evidence, to how best to use expert witnesses, and more.

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Senior Staff Attorney Diane Balkin presents to law enforcement officers and prosecutors

Moving past the trial phase, the training also examined sentencing packages—highlighting that one of the best ways for Washington State officials to prevent future unlawful animal cruelty is to make use of the state’s provisions allowing courts to block convicted animal abusers from possessing other animals in the future. Finally, the attorneys talked through a range of different case types commonly seen in the state: proactive cruelty, passive neglect, cockfighting, sexual exploitation, hoarding, animal-involved domestic violence, and more.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks Pasado’s Safe Haven for hosting this training, as well as all the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who attended. Our attorneys look forward to helping secure further justice on behalf of animals in the state of Washington.

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