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April 25, 2012

Virginia Law Enforcement Officers Receive Training to Combat Animal Fighting

Humane Society University Hosts Seminar

Humane Society University

Humane Society University, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, in collaboration with the Danville Area Humane Society, held a course for law enforcement officers in animal cruelty and fighting investigations.

National experts Michele Baxter and Raj Prasad served as the trainers for this seminar. Prasad is an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County, Mich., and Baxter is a police officer and cruelty investigator in Washtenaw County, Mich. and is renowned for her work in dog fighting investigations.  Baxter and Prasad 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.

“This training helps develop the unique skills to investigate and prosecute animal crimes,” Prasad said. “It also allows an opportunity for different law enforcement officers from the area to interact and network on animal issues.”

“The Humane Society of the United States values the efforts of law enforcement and animal control officers to crack down on animal fighting and cruelty, and we’re happy to help by sharing our knowledge and resources,” said Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS. “After attending this training, officers will have the additional tools necessary to improve enforcement of Virginia’s animal protection laws.”

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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