Today I would like to pause to respond to the following question from reader Dawn Kopp.
Q. For years I received alerts regarding incidents of cruelty along with the names of prosecutors and judges crucial to the punishment of the perpetrators. Now it seems HSUS deals only with state and federal issues regarding the welfare of animals. Why has this happened?
A. The Humane Society of the United States is on target to respond to roughly 360 animal cruelty cases this year—just about one a day—and that number does not include our involvement in animal fighting cases, which are also a major priority for us (we recently doubled our award to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in animal fighting).
In cases where an animal has been abused or mistreated, we offer up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Law enforcement have credited these rewards with bringing suspects to justice in several high profile cruelty cases, including in Minnesota where a man allegedly participated in the beheading of his ex-girlfriend’s dog.
The HSUS works to protect animals from abuse.
In animal cruelty cases where authorities have made an arrest, we contact the prosecutor to urge strong legal action and offer sentencing recommendations, typically including recommendations for jail time, psychological counseling, and a ban on pet ownership. We are fortunate to have on our staff Dr. Mary Lou Randour, a leading authority on the psychological treatment of juvenile animal abusers. Randour’s psychological treatment program for children who abuse animals—the only program of its kind—serves as an invaluable tool.
When cruelty cases go to trial, our legal team is often called in to help local prosecutors secure convictions, and to ensure that animal abusers pay the full cost of their crimes. This year alone, HSUS attorneys have teamed up with prosecutors around the country to help bring dozens of animal abusers and animal fighters to justice, including the recent seizure of starving and severely neglected animals in Virginia, and the conviction of a Florida rancher that was charged with starving his animals—one of the biggest cruelty cases ever in the state of Florida.
We have come to understand that it can sometimes be a tactical mistake to flood prosecutors and judges with letters and calls. Instead, we focus on training prosecutors in how to manage animal cruelty cases and rewarding them when they show a real commitment to such cases. In October, our inaugural Humane Law Enforcement Awards honored prosecutors and law enforcement officials who have made significant contributions to the protection of animals.
That is not to say that letters and calls are never necessary. For example, we recently partnered with the National Enquirer to bring an animal cruelty case before their readers every other week, almost always accompanied by contact information for the appropriate authority. And there will certainly be individual cruelty cases in the future where a call to action among our members poses an effective strategy for encouraging justice for an abused animal.
If you would like to heighten awareness about animal cruelty cases, start locally. A polite letter to your local prosecutor asking him or her to prioritize animal cruelty cases can make a lasting difference. Be sure to mention that you are an HSUS member, and that you would be pleased to be of help.
In the meantime, you can track current animal cruelty case rewards and press releases about individual cruelty cases on our Animal Cruelty and Fighting website. To help us bring animal abusers to justice, please consider a contribution to our Animal Cruelty Response and Reward Fund.
If you have a question about The HSUS, offer a comment through the blog or email your query. I may post it in a future blog.