City departments team up to make people and their pets safer

Better training for City staff and a new program aimed at helping domestic abuse victims and their pets are two of the ways City departments are partnering to address animal cruelty and the violence against people. Given the growing awareness of the link between animal cruelty and human violence, staff from Minneapolis Animal Care & Control, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the City Attorney’s Office are working together to improve animal cruelty and fighting investigations, in order to achieve more convictions for these types of crimes.

Studies clearly indicate the connection between animal cruelty and human violence, from the incidence of animal cruelty among families experiencing domestic violence to the greater incidence of animal abuse among violent criminal offenders.

On Oct. 6, staff from several public safety-related departments received training on animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting. The training was done by Sgt. David R. Hunt of the Special Investigations Unit of the Franklin County Sheriffs Office in Columbus, Ohio, who is a court recognized expert in dog fighting. Sgt. Hunt has conducted over 100 dog-fighting investigations and resulting in 66 arrests, and he told training attendees that Minneapolis has some of the strongest ordinances related to dangerous animals he’s seen.

The course included techniques for handling animal cruelty cases, from caring for abused animals to investigating cruelty complaints from the first response to filing charges. Training on illegal animal fighting included information on recognizing the signs of dog fighting, evidence collection, and other techniques for investigating and preparing those cases for court in order to increase convictions.

Minneapolis has also recently begun a new program to help victims of domestic violence who are afraid to leave an abusive relationship due to safety concerns for their pets. Current research shows up to 48 percent of battered women delay leaving abusive situations out of fear for the safety of their animals. Animal Care & Control and Minneapolis Police are partnering to provide temporary, no-cost kenneling of pets for victims of domestic violence. Under the program, animals can be sheltered for free for up to five days to help a domestic violence victim transition out of a dangerous situation.

In addition, Minneapolis is partnering with other organizations, including the Minnesota Alliance for Families and Animal Safety, and the Humane Society of the United States to better address animal cruelty and human violence. In the near future, this partnership will grow to increase the involvement of the community.

Published Oct 6, 2010