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ASPCA training equips police with tools to investigate animal abuse

Research has found that nearly half of law enforcement officers encounter animal cruelty at least several times a year, nearly a quarter of them on a monthly basis

By Stacy Wolf, ASPCA Senior Vice President

Animal cruelty is a crime against animals, but also a crime that offends our most basic community values.

The scale of this cruelty can be shocking, as seen in 2016 when the ASPCA assisted the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office in a cruelty case involving nearly 700 animals living in deplorable conditions at an unlicensed, self-described animal rescue facility. It was the largest companion animal cruelty case in ASPCA history.

Animal cruelty doesn’t just hurt animals. Research shows that some forms of animal cruelty are indicators of potential future violent acts against people. But effectively investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty cases presents unique challenges to law enforcement, prosecutors and animal welfare agencies alike.

The ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group is made up of investigators, lawyers, behaviorists and forensic veterinarians who collaborate with law enforcement agencies across the country to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of animal crimes and help rehabilitate animal cruelty victims.

The goal of this work is to save animals in jeopardy today, while helping law enforcement agencies build their own capacity to handle such cases independently in the future.

Training courses provide information on animal cruelty

ASPCA research has found that nearly half of law enforcement officers encounter animal cruelty at least several times a year, nearly a quarter of them on a monthly basis.

Almost half of officers say more training is needed on how to investigate animal cruelty cases.

Feedback from law enforcement agencies demonstrates a keen interest in receiving additional training to help officers identify animal cruelty and conduct effective investigations that result in successful prosecution.

In response to these findings, the ASPCA has increased efforts to offer training courses to law enforcement and animal control officers on various animal cruelty topics and trained nearly 2,000 law enforcement officers across the country last year to effectively assist victims of cruelty and neglect.

These trainings provide crucial tools that empower law enforcement to identify, investigate and prosecute animal cruelty.

Current training opportunities

This September, the ASPCA is collaborating with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, the New York State Office of Public Safety and the Mohawk Valley Police Academy to offer a statewide animal cruelty investigations training.

During the two-day course, attendees will learn about New York State animal cruelty laws, evidence collection, the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence, animal fighting, and investigating equine and large-scale cruelty cases.

Numerous ASPCA animal welfare experts spanning specialties in veterinary forensic sciences, investigations, criminal law and animal behavior will offer training, which will be held September 11 and 12 at Mohawk Valley Community College in Oneida County.

Law enforcement officers based in New York interested in attending this training should submit a course application at Those not based in New York or unable to attend can visit for information on ASPCA trainings in your area.