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The Humane State Program

The new HSUS initiative is creating immediate change for animals in Oklahoma. Could your state be next?

All Animals magazine, May/June 2016

by Ruthanne Johnson

Counterclockwise from top right: Shannon Johnstone; Kathy Milani/The HSUS; Meredith Lee/The HSUS; Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS; Nelson A. Ferry/for The HSUS; Kathy Milani/The HSUS; Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS

A little bit of information goes a long way when it comes to helping animals. So imagine what can happen when a lot of information gets to the right people.

Take, for example, the 26 emaciated dogs rescued by sheriff’s deputy Dru Davis in Creek County, Oklahoma. Davis used a dog body scoring chart he received just six days earlier from HSUS experts to identify the dogs’ level of starvation, as well as information The HSUS shared on search warrants to seize the dogs.

Davis saw a puppy who looked like he wouldn’t survive without immediate help, so he found the contact information for the Humane Society of Tulsa in his training packet and enlisted its help. Training for deputies on animal crimes is scant, he says, and his county has limited resources for such calls. Had it not been for The HSUS training, Davis says he likely would have given the owner a warning and checked back in a week. Davis’ case is one of the first victories of The Humane State Program, a donor-driven HSUS initiative launched this year to help train law enforcement, shelters and rescues, wildlife rehabbers, prosecutors and even judges in animal-related issues. It draws on HSUS experts in fields such as animal fighting and investigations, dangerous exotic pets, wildlife protection, spay/neuter and disaster response.

  • Empowered by Humane State training, a deputy carries three neglected puppies to safety.  Gina Gardner/Humane Society of Tulsa

Animal protection isn’t usually top priority in law enforcement training, says HSUS special projects director Tara Loller, who was a humane officer before joining The HSUS. "It doesn’t matter how many great animal protection laws are passed, if people in law enforcement don’t know those laws or have the support and connections they need, then those laws don’t mean much."

The law enforcement seminars in five Oklahoma regions drew more than 700 attendees in March, with sessions scheduled in May and June on pets and wildlife.

Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin will be the next to receive customized training, thanks to donor support in each state. The goal is to give people on the front lines the tools and information they need to help animals. And it’s working. Davis’s rescue wasn’t the only one: Three others followed in the days after training, and several calls came into HSUS tip lines on possible animal fighting operations and a large-scale breeding facility. It’s only the beginning.

"Connecting the dots between extreme cruelty and the safety of our communities will … help us reach our goal to make Oklahoma the safest and most humane place to be an animal." — The Kirkpatrick Foundation Executive Director Louisa Mccunet (The Kirkpatrick Foundation gave $150,000 for the Oklahoma initiative.)

Transformational changes

The Humane State Program connects the dots between animal protection laws and the people who enforce them. Shelter and rescue communities can knowledgeably report issues, while law enforcement officers, prosecutors and state agencies can confidently enforce the laws.

1. Strengthening the front lines

Law enforcement training topics include investigating puppy mills and animal fighting; recognizing and investigating animal cruelty; handling interviews, warrants and evidence collection; and interpreting and applying animal protection laws for rescue and criminal prosecution.

Attendees receive information packets with crime-reporting tip lines and resources as well as cruelty investigation kits valued at $500 each. The kits included a tactical bag from the company 5.11, a digital camera, a state-specific animal-law handbook, animal handling and investigative equipment, and dog, cat and horse body condition scoring charts.

The animal law handbook is an easy-to-reference guide to a wide range of laws that enforcement officers would typically encounter.

Few states publish handbooks such as these, says HSUS senior attorney Leana Stormont, who combed through law codes for two months to create the Oklahoma booklet.

2. Empowering the sheltering community

The pets-focused training for shelters and rescues includes topics such as compassion fatigue, social media strategies to help increase adoption, feral cat communities, rescue and disaster response and working with law enforcement. Attendees receive animal care and control equipment and an information packet with local and national resources.

3. Equipping wildlife responders

Wildlife protection training includes presentations on safe wildlife capture and handling and how to resolve wildlife issues such as helping orphaned and injured animals. Oklahoma still allows the possession of dangerous exotic animals as pets, so attendees in that state will also learn about related laws and resources.

Imagine what the Humane State Program could do in your neighborhood. Help your state become a safer place for animals


The immediate impact: saving lives

Officers helped save animals just days after receiving new information and equipment from The HSUS. Sheriff's deputy Dru Davis helped a litter of neglected puppies in Creek County, and authorites rescued starving farm animals from a property in Blaine County. Gina Gardner/Humane Society of Tulsa

In the weeks after training in Oklahoma, calls rolled in alerting The HSUS about cruelty cases and other illegal activity such as animal fighting. Rescues and investigations ensued—a direct result of the Humane State Program.

1. Texas County

Two injured dogs who had been fighting in a backyard that had broken glass and exposed nails were seized just six days after Deputy Jamie Gandy with the Guymon Police Department attended the HSUS training. Gandy learned how the cruelty law applied to the dogs’ unsafe living conditions as well as their injuries and how the bond process places liability on the owner for the animals’ cost of care and medical treatment.

  • HSUS training in five key regions helped law enforcement officers protect the lives of animals in their communities.

2. Creek County

Deputy Sheriff Dru Davis discovered a dead puppy and 28 malnourished dogs in Creek County, including several nursing mothers. Davis says had it not been for The HSUS training, he likely would have warned the owner and checked back in a week. Davis used his new body scoring chart to identify the dogs as emaciated. He also used a search warrant law and information on the bond hearing process to seize the dogs, and used the contact information for the Humane Society of Tulsa in his training packet. The shelter assisted in the rescue and cared for the dogs.

3. Pottawatomie County

Pottawatomie county Sheriff’s deputies discovered three dead and nine starving horses nine days after training. The horse body condition chart and information on search warrants and bond processing proved invaluable. The sheriff contacted HSUS Safe Stalls partner Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue for help, and they are caring for the animals with financial support from The HSUS.

4. Blaine County

The sheriff’s office discovered six horses and 22 emaciated cows, as well as dead animals and bones scattered across a 1,700- acre property three weeks after training. Officers used the body condition chart and information on search warrants and bond processing. Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue assisted and is now caring for the animals with financial support from The HSUS.


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