October 26, 2010
Long Arms for Animals
Getting "the law" on animal abusers in 2010
by Julie Falconer
Humane-minded law enforcement officials are the best partners animals—and their advocates—can have.
Each year, The HSUS's Humane Law Enforcement Awards ceremony pays tribute to officials who made significant progress against animal abusers in the past year.
It's a chance to honor those dedicated public servants who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect everyone in their communities, two-legged and four-legged alike.
Recipients of the 2010 Humane Law Enforcement Awards
Sheriff, White County, Tenn.
Since being elected sheriff in 2006, Shoupe hasn't needed to write too many animal-related citations, because most people heed his first warning: "They know I mean business," says the former Marine and state trooper. In April, Shoupe led a raid of a puppy mill in Sparta, saving 221 dogs and two cats from squalor and neglect. It's the second time he's dismantled an abusive breeding mill in his county, and he used his experiences to show state legislators the need to regulate large-scale puppy-producing facilities. "Having a sheriff stand up before the senate judiciary committee and talk about the cruelty he'd witnessed and the economic impact on his department and his community was invaluable," says Leighann McCollum, HSUS Tennessee state director. In July 2009, the Tennessee Commercial Breeder Act was signed into law. For Shoupe, looking after his community's animals is both his passion and his job: "We're here to protect them just like we are the children," he says.
Director, Division of Gaming Control, Indiana Gaming Commission
Officer, Division of Gaming Control, Indiana Gaming Commission
In the three years since the Indiana Division of Gaming Control was created, the 16-person agency has done a lot more than take out illegal slot machines and poker establishments. Under the leadership of Rollins and Bolin, the undercover team led raids on two dogfighting operations in 2009 with HSUS assistance. This year, they acted on a tip from The HSUS and busted an alleged breeder of fighting roosters. "It's been a crash course for us," says Bolin, adding that he's gained a lot of respect for animal protection organizations in the past two years. To maximize their agency's impact, Rollins and Bolin are hoping to form a task force with Kentucky officials to target animal fighters. "They know we're out there, but they don't know who we are, and that drives them crazy," says Rollins. "So much the better."
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Wayne County, W.Va.
Law enforcement agencies had been receiving complaints about the neglected animals on Gary Belcher's property for three years, says Summer Wyatt, HSUS West Virginia state director. So Wyatt wasn't overly optimistic when she contacted the Wayne County prosecutor's office for help. Then she received a call from Michels. "He wasn't going to play the game of, 'oh well, they're just animals,' " Wyatt says. Instead, Michels drove to the property to see the animals' condition for himself. "You could just see in their eyes that they were in pain and they were hungry," he says. Under his leadership, local authorities seized 49 horses, mules, and donkeys—many severely emaciated—along with numerous dogs and domestic rabbits from the property in May. The owner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty and was barred from owning or living with animals for five years. "Had it not been for Michels," Wyatt says, "we would have fought a hard battle."
Arkansas Attorney General
"We've come so far in just two years," says Desiree Bender, HSUS Arkansas state director. "Arkansas went from being among the five worst states in the nation on animal cruelty statutes to ranking 25th." Bender gives much of the credit for this transformation to McDaniel, who championed strong anti-cruelty legislation enacted last year. The new law established felony-level penalties for malicious acts of cruelty, made cockfighting a felony crime, and set higher penalties for a number of lesser cruelty offenses. McDaniel also allocated funding to train the state's law enforcement officers on the new law. "He answers his cell phone any time of day for us," says Bender, who once called the attorney general for help seizing eight fighting dogs after their owners were arrested. McDaniel was on his honeymoon at the time, but he took the call and made it happen.
W.A. “Drew” Edmondson
Oklahoma Attorney General
In his five consecutive terms in office, Edmondson has proven to be a true ally to animals in the Sooner State. His office strongly supported a citizens’ initiative to ban cockfighting in 2002—and successfully defended the new law when cockfighting interests filed legal challenges against it. He’s long promoted The HSUS’s animal fighting rewards program: At a press conference announcing the rollout of the program in Oklahoma, he urged residents to help combat this “immensely cruel activity.” And he filed a landmark lawsuit against factory-style poultry farmers for dumping waste in the state’s waterways. “We have been blessed to have him as a forceful advocate for animal protection issues in Oklahoma,” says Cynthia Armstrong, HSUS Oklahoma state director. “You just don’t find that many people in office anymore who … stand up for what’s right regardless of the fallout.”
Humane Recognition awards went to Terrence Murphy, 14, of Chicago, as well as to Clara Mason, D.V.M., of West Virginia.