Even the best laws against animal cruelty and animal fighting are mere paper tigers if prosecutors won’t take cases based on such laws, or are unsure how to proceed with them. Recognizing the need to reach prosecutors and others in law enforcement about the importance of enforcing these laws, the Animal Welfare Institute partnered with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to present the first ever "Prosecuting Animal Cruelty and Fighting Cases" conference on September 24 and 25.
The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. generously hosted the national conference, which drew participants from Maryland to California. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, opened the session, and as his next stop was the annual meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, surprised us with the announcement that the 2010 CBC conference would include a forum on animal cruelty. Glenn Ivey, state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, Maryland and chairman of APA’s board of directors, welcomed participants and spoke frankly about the divide that may exist within prosecutors’ offices over handling animal-related cases.
The distinguished faculty consisted of an assistant attorney general, assistant commonwealth’s attorney, and state veterinarian from Virginia; a senior assistant district attorney from Georgia; a former New Jersey prosecutor; and a psychologist who is an authority on the relationship between animal cruelty and other forms of violence. Training sessions were presented on a range of topics including dog fighting, puppy mills and forensic issues in animal cases. The conference closed with a mock trial during which a defense attorney and "judge" realistically portrayed the roadblocks prosecutors may face when presenting animal cruelty cases.
While the conference was designed to give participants new resources to help them pursue animal-related crimes, it was also intended as a forum in which to share experiences, ask questions, and not feel so alone in their desire to seek justice for animals.