Animal Cruelty Taskforce Description

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Humane Society of Southern Arizona

Since it’s creation in December 1999, the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona (ACT) has worked towards educating the community – both the general public and law enforcement – about the animal cruelty felony law in Arizona (ARS 13-2910). ACT also brings together different law enforcement agencies in the community to serve as a clearinghouse for ongoing cases and tips that may otherwise not be connected.

Animal Cruelty Taskforce Description

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ACT was formed in response to the passage of ARS 13-2910. This act changed the penalties for those committing animal cruelty from a Class One Misdemeanor to a Class Six Felony. ACT was partially created to help law enforcement personnel understand and successfully use this new law. Additionally, ACT works as a public information and training organization to raise community awareness and help prevent violent crimes toward animals. ACT is a nonpolitical coalition of organizations who share the mutual goals of protecting animals and human beings from violent crime through the utilization of existing laws; prosecuting or rehabilitating offenders; providing public education or services to the animal and human victims of violent crime; or are practicing members of the veterinary medical community trained in the detection and treatment of animal cruelty.

ACT has 42 member agencies, with 87 individual members. ACT membership is limited to law enforcement and criminal justice personnel; organizations with existing programs that aid law enforcement and the prevention of animal cruelty and professionals such as veterinarians or related fields trained in detecting and diagnosing animal cruelty, treating animal victims, human offenders or providing public education. While ACT is not a law enforcement or investigative organization, it does serve as a confidential forum where law enforcement can discuss ongoing cases or ask for assistance from member agencies.

In cooperation with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), ACT offers education and training for any interested audience from elementary classroom children to law enforcement and criminal justice personnel. These trainings include why animal cruelty needs to be taken seriously, how to recognize warning signs, and what can be done in the community to help prevent animal cruelty. These trainings are offered on a sliding fee scale, depending on audience and location of the training. ACT has presented one particular seminar, “The Tools of Animal Cruelty Investigations,” on three separate occasions, with another seminar scheduled for May 2002 in the northern part of the state.

ACT has also been working to expand HSSA’s Safe Haven program, which provides shelter for animals coming from violent situations. The Safe Haven program has been in existence since 1993, accessible only through a law enforcement or local domestic violence agency, to provide shelter for animals when the owners are attempting to leave an abusive situation. Through cooperation with ACT, the Safe Haven program is now serving the entire city of Tucson, with three 24-hour drop off points, and others pending.

Also in conjunction with HSSA, ACT has been instrumental in furthering the Catalina Mountain School Welfare Studies program at a state-run juvenile correctional facility. This nine-week program educates the juvenile males on a variety of animal welfare issues including the ethical treatment of animals, the links between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, and extensive animal handling. The ultimate goal of this program is to use this location as an additional Safe Haven drop off point as well as more generalized animal socialization through HSSA. The Arizona Dept of Juvenile Corrections and ACT believe that this program is and will continue to be beneficial to both the animals and the youths involved.

Throughout the 2-½ years that ACT has been in existence, it has run several public service campaigns about the safety of animals in our community. With summer approaching, ACT has a standard set of hot-weather campaign posters that are posted throughout the community and sent to the media. When local law enforcement was seeing a rash of poisonings and, at a different time, pneumatic weapon shootings, these issues were also brought before the media. The increased media coverage helps the public recognize threats to their own animals as well as recognizing when others around them may be breaking the laws regarding animal care.

ACT has also had a great deal of success bringing particularly egregious crimes against animals to the media. Most notably, a dog who was found severely emaciated and, at a different time, a puppy who was found skinned alive have been broadcast throughout the local media and have met with a very supportive community reaction. People consistently flood the phones with calls of outrage and/or support and contribute to information reward funds, with the most recent fund reaching over $30,000. ACT provides updated information about local opportunities, case updates and general information in it’s quarterly newsletter and on it’s website: www.act-az.org.

ACT is proud of the fact that, since ARS 13-2910 passed in August 1999, every animal cruelty case that has been taken to trial has resulted in a conviction and sentencing. Through continued media coverage and high-profile cases, ACT has gained name recognition throughout the community. Fighting animal cruelty is an uphill battle – there are people, including law enforcement, who still do not realize that the felony law exists and that animal cruelty needs to be taken seriously. However, with the ever-increasing pool of resources at our disposal, ACT believes that we can make a difference in our community and throughout Arizona.
Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona
Summary

The Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona (ACT) is a coalition of law enforcement, criminal justice and animal welfare professionals, working together to educate law enforcement and the general public about animal cruelty. In the 2 years since it’s creation, ACT has worked diligently on media campaigns, organizing training seminars for professionals and the public, and facilitating cooperation between existing organizations working to combat all types of violence in the community. Since the implementation of ARS 13-2910 in August 1999, ACT is proud to announce that every case of felony animal cruelty that has been taken to trial in Pima County has resulted in a conviction and sentencing.

ACT has been active in developing a variety of education programs, protecting animals rescued from domestic violence situations, developing an animal welfare studies program with a juvenile correctional facility, promoting several public service media campaigns and raising public awareness about animal cruelty in general and specific egregious cases that occur in the community.

ACT is a very unique coalition in Arizona and has made impressive strides in the community, rippling throughout Arizona. To date, 90 people – law enforcement, veterinary or criminal justice personnel – from throughout Arizona have participated in ACT’s three-day training seminar. All of these individuals are now valuable resources for their community regarding animal cruelty issues and the laws that apply to them. ACT is proud to have an impact on law enforcement throughout the state and will continue to strive to initiate movement and knowledge about the issue of animal cruelty.

Courtesy of
HSSAZ
3450 N Kelvin Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85716
Shelter Phone: (520) 327-6088

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