Recap: 9th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference

November 13th, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Another stellar animal cruelty conference wrapped up in Phoenix, AZ last week! Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys hit the road to present at the 9th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference—a partnership between the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the only national training conference of its kind that brings together more than 100 prosecutors, law enforcement, veterinarians and other stakeholders from throughout the country to learn from the best experts in the field. For three days, stakeholders are immersed in the nuts and bolts of prosecuting animal cruelty cases, network with professionals from all over the U.S., and forge important connections that will invariably lead to just outcomes for animal victims in cruelty cases.

This year, presentations covered a host of topics including investigating animal cruelty crimes, legislative updates, using technology in animal cruelty cases, hoarding, wildlife trafficking, and alternative sentencing. The Legislative Roundtable session highlighted the groundbreaking new publication for judges, Animal Cruelty Issues: What Juvenile and Family Court Judges Need to Know, co-published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

The audience had the opportunity to hear from renowned experts, including Michelle Welch, who shared her expertise prosecuting animal fighting cases and provided tips for investigators and prosecutors involved in animal fighting cases; Dr. Melinda Merck, who discussed the importance of veterinary forensics in all animal cruelty cases; and Madeline Bernstein, who discussed new issues in animal cruelty cases.

Other notable panels included our very own David Rosengard, Senior Staff Attorney, who presented on defense challenges to pre-conviction forfeiture and Diane Balkin, Senior Staff Attorney, who discussed the importance of jury selection in animal cruelty cases. In addition, Harris County District Attorney, Jessica Milligan presented on how to navigate the legislative session from a prosecutor’s perspective, demonstrating how important prosecutors who handle animal cruelty cases are to the legislative process and to achieving the best possibly enacted legislation.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Nicole Harris, Deputy County Attorney from Maricopa County Casey Mundell, and Assistant City Prosecutor from Mesa Alison Ferrante presented on animal hoarding, covering issues related to investigation, resources, and solutions unique to animal hoarding cases. Additionally, Judge Gale Rasin spoke about alternative sentencing for animal hoarders. Judge Rasin discussed the underlying mental health issues associated with animal hoarding and how hoarders often do not receive appropriate treatment. Judge Rasin suggested a new approach for animal hoarders, which includes assembling a team—including psychologists, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and probation officers—to work together to support effective mental health treatment that targets underlying issues associated with animal hoarding.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund would like to thank the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys for their partnership and all the presenters and attendees for making the 9th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference a huge success.

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