Hundreds of Oklahoma law enforcement officers will receive free training and resources for investigating puppy mills, animal fighting and animal cruelty by the Humane Society of the United States in partnership with local organizations.

The trainings will be held March 7 through March 11 in Woodward, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Pryor and Ada. Experts from the HSUS will provide information on how to handle animal cruelty cases from first response to prosecution. Through the HSUS’ Humane State Program, attendees will also receive an evidence kit valued at more than $500 at no cost to the officers or their agencies.

John Thompson, the deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, said: “With little to no training available to them, law enforcement is at an extreme disadvantage in the fight against animal abuse. The HSUS is a leader in training law enforcement to identify and combat animal cruelty on all levels and we are excited to support The Humane State Program.”

The Humane State Program was born out of a successful initiative the HSUS launched in Puerto Rico in 2015. Law enforcement officers on the island received trainings and resources similar to those being provided in Oklahoma to address the growing number of stray, feral and abused dogs and cats. As a result of the initiative’s success, the Humane State Program now aims to implement this effort in other states where animal welfare resources are needed across the nation.

Tara Loller, director of strategic campaigns and special projects for the HSUS, said: “We are pleased to partner with local agencies and organizations to provide extensive resources and training on animal crimes and rescues. Our program comes to five major cities in each state for three weeks of training courses—one for law enforcement, one for the shelter/rescue community and one for wildlife/exotic animal rescue and rehabilitators. We and our partners look forward to building the animal welfare capacity to address cruelty across the country.”

For this effort, the HSUS is partnering with the National Sheriffs’ Association, FBI, Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, Oklahoma Sheriffs and Peace Office Association and Humane Society of Tulsa.

Chief Phil Cotton, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, said: “The Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police is in support of the Humane Society of the United States for providing information and training to law enforcement in Oklahoma on the investigation of animal cruelty, abuse, dog fighting, cockfighting and puppy mills. More than 700 law enforcement personnel are registered to attend the one-day classes next month, which clearly shows the need for this type training.”

Oklahoma native Cynthia Armstrong, who is the HSUS’ Oklahoma Senior State Director and has served in that role since 2005, welcomes the additional resources being provided to law enforcement officers in the state and hopes that the increased awareness about identifying, documenting and charging violations of the state’s anti-cruelty laws and the influx of donated equipment will help agencies better enforce the law in the years ahead.

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