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March 8, 2012

Virginia Law Enforcement Training to Combat Animal Fighting

The Humane Society of the United States Hosts Seminar

Humane Society University

Humane Society University, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and Franklin County Planned Pethood, held a course for law enforcement officers in animal cruelty and fighting investigations.

Kathy Strouse, a member of the original search team in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, instructed participants in preparing for and testifying in court on animal cruelty and fighting cases, arrest warrants and preparing cases for prosecution, working with Virginia’s laws and disseminating public information.

Representatives from Virginia State Police, local municipal law enforcement, county sheriffs' offices, crime prevention officers, and local animal control participated in the day-long seminar.

“There is a well-recognized link between cruelty to animals and violence against people,” Strouse said. “Animal control officers and police officers are often encountering the same people. It is so important to cross train both groups to work together for the good of our citizens and our animals.”

“The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge and resources to aid in the anti-crime and anti-cruelty efforts of law enforcement and animal control officers in southwest Virginia,” said Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS. “Virginia has the laws on the books to crack down on the scourge of animal fighting and cruelty, and this training will help improve enforcement.”

Facts:

•    Participating in and attending an animal fighting event is a felony in Virginia. The commonwealth’s animal fighting and cruelty codes are some of the strongest in the country after being upgraded in 2008. This course helps ensure that animal control and law enforcement have the training they need to enforce these laws.
•    All 50 states have animal cruelty laws; 43 states have laws that make the most egregious types of cruelty a felony offense, and dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states.
•    Animal fighting is often associated with other crimes such as gang activity, drug distribution and gambling.  These activities also lead to an increase in violence.
•    Animal cruelty and fighting cases are often at the low end of the totem pole for prosecutors, so it is up to investigators to ensure that every investigation be as solid as possible, to increase prosecutorial attention and achieve meaningful outcomes.

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Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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