Yesterday, we hosted John Thompson, the deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, at our national headquarters and bestowed upon him a Humane Leadership Award for helping bring humane sensibilities into the consciousness of the nation. Thompson is straight out of central casting as a law enforcement man, yet his heart is just as broad as his shoulders, as he’s shown time and time again. He led the effort to get the FBI to embrace a new animal cruelty reporting framework to accumulate data on perpetrators and put that information into a central, searchable database. He actively engages legislative and law enforcement leaders to pass critical animal welfare laws and improve the national landscape for animals, the people who care about them, and the communities in which they live.
The Humane Society of the United States is privileged to work with the brave men and women dedicated to making our communities safer. To that end, we partner with law enforcement officials across the country on a wide array of investigations, trainings, and legislation. The National Sheriffs’ Association is one of our best partners.
In a cooperative effort between The HSUS and federal authorities that lasted three months, a Southern District of Alabama grand jury indicted four individuals last month on federal charges in connection with the investigation of a major cockfighting pit in Citronelle, Alabama. The FBI arrested four suspects yesterday eight months after federal law enforcement officers, with The HSUS on site, searched the Citronelle property where they uncovered a huge arena with bleacher seating, concession stands, trophies, cockfighting paraphernalia, and rental holding spaces for participants’ birds with room for more than 1,000 animals. In 2012 The HSUS filed a complaint with the Alabama attorney general’s office requesting an investigation of the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association, arguing that it is unlawfully masquerading as a “nonprofit” entity while profiting from illegal cockfights. In the indictment, an undercover FBI agent describes attending an illegal cockfighting derby at the Citronelle property on May 7, 2016, when the agent witnessed the president of the Alabama Gamefowl Breeder’s Association address the crowd about his group’s efforts to block legislation to strengthen the penalties for cockfighting in Alabama and soliciting donations. The AGBA president was not among those indicted, but its secretary was indicted for selling merchandise at the derby.
This is the sort of spade work we are doing with law enforcement agencies every day. In 2016, in cooperation with the National Sheriffs’ Association, we recognized 20 additional law enforcement professionals with Humane Law Enforcement Awards. Awardees were acknowledged for their commitment to humane law enforcement training and their pursuit of animal cruelty prosecutions. Recipients included a Detective with Naples Police Department who pursued felony animal cruelty charges after an individual drop-kicked a native bird off a pier, as well as a group of officers and an assistant district attorney in Cabarrus County, North Carolina who worked with our Animal Rescue Team to shut down a puppy mill.
Our work with law enforcement officials touches upon the entire spectrum of the American justice system, from Sheriffs to prosecutors to Attorney Generals’ offices. Through our Law Enforcement Training Center and Humane State program we have trained thousands of officers on animal cruelty and fighting investigations. In addition to our daylong trainings, we often participate in National Sheriffs’ Association conferences nationwide, most recently in Georgia, Maine, and Missouri, and with their counterparts at the Prosecutors’ Associations.
Recently we held our first collaborative domestic violence/law enforcement training at the Kansas City Police Academy. The HSUS partnered with the Kansas City Police Department, the Great Plains SPCA, and the Rose Brooks Center to train officers about investigative techniques for cruelty and fighting investigations, the link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence, and on how we can work together to protect our communities. Fostering these relationships is critical as we continue to advocate for the passage of The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, a critical piece of federal legislation that will provide greatly needed protections and funding to both victims of domestic violence and their pets.
In our Humane Puerto Rico and Humane Oklahoma programs, we are making animal cruelty training available to just about every law enforcement agent in these jurisdictions, and already thousands have participated. We are soon to launch Humane Kansas, and bring the same comprehensive animal protection program that we’re delivering to Oklahoma and Puerto Rico.
Like so many other people in society, many law enforcement agents don’t know the severity and scale of animal cruelty and neglect, until we document these problems and present them. John Thompson was one of those people—indifferent, at one point, to the plight of animals. It was exposure to The HSUS and the love of a pet dog he acquired that pricked his conscience and set him off on a determined course to help all animals. Now he cannot be deterred in fighting animal cruelty, everywhere. Just like The HSUS.
And with thousands of law enforcement personnel fighting animal cruelty with us, we won’t be deterred in our quest to create a humane society.