Presented on November 21, by the Baltimore Animal Abuse Unit in conjunction with the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, an overall theme of the summit was to unite diverse groups and resources behind the goal of stopping animal abuse and neglect within the community. Though the summit had a special focus on animal abuse in Baltimore, it attracted law enforcement, animal control, attorneys, veterinarians, human service professionals, nonprofit groups, and ordinary citizens from far and wide. In a rare occurrence, participants found themselves sitting at the same tables for the entire day, collaborating to solve the problem of animal cruelty and neglect. It is certainly a model that seems worth replicating in other communities around the world. The full agenda can be found here.
The summit, and the animal abuse unit itself, came into fruition after two individuals, Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney, Adam Lippe, and paralegal April Doherty (pictured below) recognized a need to dedicate specialized attention toward animal cruelty cases. Doherty’s story can be found here.
Many factors helped contribute to the success of the summit, including collaboration between agencies and organizations and volunteer assistance from local students in assembling materials for distribution to attendees. The summit was enhanced by real life case studies of successful resolution of animal abuse cases, multimedia presentations, a diverse selection of speakers, and engaging summary materials. Some law enforcement participants were able to receive continuing education credit for attendance. And perhaps most enticing of all—the summit and the accompanying materials were free of charge to attendees.
The featured speaker was John Thompson, Interim Executive Director of the National Sheriff’s Association and Co-Chair of the National Coalition On Violence Against Animals.
The summit presented much helpful information and offered some of the following key takeaways:
- Everyone has a role to play in fighting animal abuse and increasing compassion in their communities. Everyone includes private citizens, individual animal advocates, animal protection groups, government agencies, veterinarians and human service workers. Each has a unique role in addressing mistreatment of animals, and each can collaborate for the best possible outcome. One of the best ways to stop abuse and neglect is to speak up, lawfully document and notify authorities when there is any suspicion. Some communities may even have specialized hotlines for reporting animal abuse.
- Crimes against animals are often linked to other violent crimes. Agencies and task forces working to address animal cruelty and other types of violence (e.g., domestic abuse) can obtain a greater amount of information and achieve the best outcomes when working together and communicating with one another. Widening the net of awareness through cross reporting and cross training helps to decrease violence in all its forms.
- It helps to learn the law. In the United States, each state has its own set of animal cruelty laws, which are often supplemented by local laws. Knowing which laws apply to animals in individual communities is key to protecting them. State and local laws can typically be found in online government libraries, and may also be available at animal control and protection agencies. (WAN Note: Many animal protection laws exist internationally, as well. As in the U.S., it is helpful for advocates from all backgrounds to become familiar with them).
- Education can be the best dose of prevention. No matter what their professional background, everyone can be an educator when it comes to awareness of animal abuse and neglect. Craft the message, and find appropriate places to deliver it!
Representatives from the following additional animal protection organizations provided presentations and resources: Animals and Society Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse and the Snyder Foundation for Animals. Additional resources, including some that were discussed at the summit, can be found on their websites.
Have you heard of or attended similar Summits in your community? We'd love to hear about them—let us know in the comments!