Improving the Response to Crimes Against Animals
Laura Henderson, Executive Director
Pasado’s Safe Haven has helped to pass six new animal cruelty laws in the state of Washington since the organization was founded in 1997. These laws are critical to ensuring that law enforcement and animal control officers have the tools they need to investigate crimes against animals and that prosecutors can successfully charge and prosecute criminals.
However, these laws are only effective if they are enforced. While many jurisdictions do an exceptional job enforcing laws that protect animals, there are still some jurisdictions who do not.
There are a variety of reasons why some jurisdictions still turn away from animal cruelty and neglect. Some lack appropriate staffing or training. But many times the reason appears to be something more insidious and unsettling; indifference.
Animals are the most vulnerable beings living in our communities and as a result, it is easy for some people to think they don’t matter or aren’t worth the effort. They don’t speak our language. They can’t call an attorney or advocate for themselves. And they can’t speak up when someone is abusing them.
But these innocent creatures can’t afford our indifference; they need our passion and our heartfelt help. They need us to see their suffering and to care enough to intervene and get them the justice they deserve.
We need to find ways to engage the people on the front lines of protecting animals – to give them the skills and the passion to help the animals who need it the most. To this end, Pasado’s Safe Haven is partnering with law enforcement to offer trainings to police and animal control on conducting Animal Cruelty Investigations and specialty classes on targeted animal cruelty crimes, such as “blood sports”. So far, we have trained over 200 officers from 25 different counties and we have plans to do more.
Last month we also partnered with Dr. Melinda Merck to offer a Crime Scene Analysis Workshop and Lab to veterinary personnel at our sanctuary. Dr. Merck is an internationally recognized Forensic Veterinarian and attendees flew in from across the United States to take advantage of this unique learning opportunity at our sanctuary. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we are already looking into offering this class again next year.
Our goal is to systematically improve the overall response to crimes against animals. We want every officer charged with protecting animals to see those animals as individuals deserving of their help. And we want every jurisdiction to have the skills and knowledge needed to recognize animal cruelty when they see it – and to take action to stop it…or better yet, prevent it.
Our laws reflect our values as a society. And generally our laws say that we believe animals are deserving of our protection. There is a wonderful quote by Gandhi that sums up the sentiment that most of us feel in our hearts and know to be true, “I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from cruelty of man”.
If you love animals, please remember that these creatures are counting on us humans to do the right thing. For the animals who are still suffering in silence, indifference can be just as heartbreaking as the abuse itself.