Law Enforcement Leader Receives Prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal

Photo by ALexandra Alberg - AWI
Photo by ALexandra Alberg - AWI

Washington, DC—John Thompson, a seasoned public safety leader who has brought the hidden atrocity of animal cruelty to the forefront of law enforcement, was honored Thursday with the Albert Schweitzer Medal. This prestigious award, established in 1951 by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.

Thompson, who serves as executive director of the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA), has worked over the years to bring state-of-the-art training to those on the front lines of protecting companion animals. Through collaborations with animal protection groups such as AWI, he has helped persuade law enforcement officials to prioritize identifying, investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty crimes—not only for the benefit of animals, but also to strengthen families and communities.

“As a law enforcement insider, John Thompson laid the groundwork for public safety officials to take animal crimes seriously and to understand the relationship between animal abuse and interpersonal violence,” said AWI President Cathy Liss. “He exemplifies the legacy of Dr. Schweitzer by recognizing the inherent value in all living creatures.”

Nearly 70 years ago, Schweitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize–winning scientist and humanitarian, gave AWI permission to strike a medal in his honor. Previous award recipients include former US Sen. Bob Dole, children’s author Astrid Lindgren, primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and investigative journalist Tom Knudson.

"Being honored with the Schweitzer medal is overwhelming,” said Thompson. “I share it with all the law enforcement officers who have taken to heart the urgency of addressing animal cruelty. And I share it with [my late dog] Mr. Po, who opened my heart to the place of animals in our lives. I also must thank the National Sheriffs' Association for being open to allowing me to pursue this mission and for continuing its commitment to addressing animal cruelty."

Thompson grew up in Quantico, Virginia, as the son of a police officer. He launched his career in public safety in 1972, and served in the US Army for 14 years as a military police officer, canine handler and military intelligence officer. Later, he became police chief of the city of Mount Rainier in Maryland, assistant sheriff of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

In January, Thompson became executive director of NACA.

Over his career, he has insisted that law enforcement officials care about animal cruelty both for the crime that it is and for its connection to human violence. Among Thompson’s major victories for animals:

  • Playing a pivotal role in the decision by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to add animal cruelty crimes as a separate category in the National Incident-Based Reporting System.
  • Convincing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider animal abuse as an important data element in the National Violent Death Reporting System.
  • Establishing the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals and the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse.
  • Developing an app for law enforcement to access state cruelty laws and other resources, along with creating a training curriculum on nonlethal responses to dog encounters.

Thompson also is the former chair of the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services Sector Coordinating Council, among many other appointments. He has worked as a law enforcement instructor and course developer for more than 25 years and is currently a senior instructor at Towson University in Maryland.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128,

About the Albert Schweitzer Medal
Dr. Albert Schweitzer was a famed scientist and humanitarian internationally known for his philosophy focused on the value of all living things. In 1951, he gave permission to the Animal Welfare Institute to strike a medal in his honor, to be awarded to individuals in recognition of their exemplary efforts to improve the lives of animals. In December 1953, a gold replica of the medal was presented to Dr. Schweitzer by Dr. Charles Joy in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. Schweitzer had gone to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. For over 60 years, the Schweitzer Medal has been a symbol of outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.

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