Last year, Officer Stevie Hargenrater, a humane officer in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, was called to a property where she found a dead Rottweiler and a small sheltie mix in terrible condition.

The officer had recently participated in the Humane Society of the United States’ training for law enforcement officers and after documenting the scene, she called HSUS Animal Crimes Manager Shalimar Hightower for guidance. Officer Hargenrater's next steps included removing the dogs from the property and a necropsy showed the Rottweiler had frozen and starved to death. She is now preparing to file charges against the owner.

Law enforcement officers like Officer Hargenrater are usually the first to learn when crimes against animals occur, and they need to be able to recognize and address cruelty to animals within the laws of the jurisdictions in which they operate. Through our Law Enforcement Training Center, created in partnership with the National Sheriffs’ Association, the HSUS provides free education for thousands of officers on animal cruelty investigations every year. In 2019, we trained 4,000 officers from across the country. In an encouraging development, many of them reached out after the training when they recognized instances of animal cruelty and needed advice or assistance.

The highly-trained animal cruelty experts on our Animal Rescue Team answer these calls for help -- 4,685 calls last year alone -- providing much appreciated support. Moreover, thanks to these partnerships, we are often the first animal protection organization law enforcement officers turn to when they need help removing animals from large-scale situations of cruelty and neglect.

Last year, among several such cases, our Animal Rescue Team worked with law enforcement agencies to rescue 4,369 animals from crisis, including a recent rescue of more than 200 cats in Washington County, Pennsylvania, the removal of nearly 200 cats and kittens and several dogs from a situation of alleged large-scale neglect in Killeen, Texas, and the rescue of 159 severely neglected horses from a property in Camp County, Texas.

Globally, Humane Society International conducts trainings for law enforcement officers, federal agents and veterinarians, teaching them how to recognize signs of animal cruelty and animal fighting and how to build a successful case. In 2019, HSI trained nearly 4,000 individuals in Australia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, India, Mexico and Vietnam in this way. In one recent example, we assisted the RSPCA Queensland with four dogfighting investigations that resulted in arrests and charges. Three of the defendants pleaded guilty prior to the hearing and the fourth was found guilty. The inspectors and veterinarians both credited our training and time spent with them for the success of these cases.

Many of the law enforcement officials we meet through our training events become strong believers in our work to end animal cruelty and decide to lend their voices in support of animal protection laws. For example, the first-ever federal animal cruelty law in the United States, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, signed into law in December 2019, enjoyed strong support from national law enforcement groups as well as more than 200 local and regional law enforcement agencies, and that support was key to its passage.

This year our Law Enforcement Training Center will expand its reach, adding new courses to the training center and enhancing our capacities as a resource for law enforcement officers. We will also continue to engage them as supporters of enhanced protections at both the state and local levels.

Law enforcement officers play a central role in the fight to end cruelty. Many law enforcement agencies, often with scarce budgets for investigation of animal crimes, go above and beyond to ensure that these most vulnerable members of their communities are protected. Today, on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, we salute the men and women who work to keep animals safe and to hold those who cause them harm accountable under law.