Officers receive animal abuse training
Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 1:52pm
Who would do this? Take a dog and place a metal clamp through the flesh on his neck and use that as a means to tether the animal in place.
What about this? Train a dog for weeks so he can fight another dog and win by breaking the other dog’s legs or ripping off its face.
These incidents and others like them are the reality Kevin Hearst Sr. faces during his workday as an Animal Services Supervisor and Animal Cruelty Investigator for Dekalb County Animal Services.
He recently was at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro to explain to other law enforcement officers how to investigate cases like these.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m not great; I have a good team,” Hearst said, adding that when handling a dog abuse case, officers need to watch not only the dog but also the owner. Either or both could be aggressive.
Even if the owner is elderly or seems unable to hurt someone, officers should rely on their training and respond as needed.
Hearst emphasized the importance of documenting everything, including taking photographs.
One law enforcement officer who attended the seminar was Wrens Police Chief Garry McCord.
“I really do believe that that seminar was really eye opening. I thank the DA (Hayward Altman) for putting this on. It was eye opening, especially as far as what to look for, as far as building a case for dog fighting,” he said.
“If we came across it (dog fighting), we would know what to look for and how to proceed. The entire area is a crime scene.”
Wadley Police Chief Jimmy Butts sent one of the department’s officers to the seminar. He said his department has been working some animal abuse cases.
“The seminar provided one of my officers, Capt. Richard Coleman, with information on the changes in the laws regarding animal abuse. This will be of great help in bringing these types of cases before the district attorney. We’re trying to make sure the captain is updated on new investigative techniques as well as the laws so he can work these cases more effectively and more efficiently,” Butts said.
“More people signed up than we anticipated, 20 or 30,” District Attorney Hayward Altman said. “But, we got 50 plus from all over the southeast.”
Claudine Wilkins and Jessica Rock presented information about laws regarding animal abuse. The two founded the Animal Law Source. The agency’s website is AnimalLawSource.org. Rock said the website serves as a resource for information about laws that protect animals.
Rock and Wilkins discussed several points about the law.
“The actual injury does not have to be permanent. It can be temporary,” Rock said.
Wilkins said the FBI has started tracking animal abuse cases; but, Georgia is not on NIBRS, which would allow law enforcement officials access to the FBI’s information.
“This animal is evidence. Do we allow the owner to visit the animal? No,” Wilkins said and pointed out that a person charged with a drug crime would not be allowed to visit his drugs.
If the animal is alive, care must be provided. Hearst said the cost of care goes back to the owner.
“If the owner wants to surrender the dog, do not drop the charges. Let it be adjudicated in court,” Rock said.
“I could talk to you all day about the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Abusers use patterns of actions for power and control.”
One of the suggestions from the seminar regarded cross reporting. Other agencies that may have charges against the abuser, too. Some of these agencies are EPA, EPD, USDA and the IRS.
Anybody who is wagering on the dog fight is part of the crime. Even if that person is from another states and even if the individual isn’t present during the fight.