Step by Step Example Animal Cruelty Case Investigation by Law Enforcement
A NYSHA Fact Sheet
I received a call from some neighbors who were complaining that the dogs who belonged to a person on a certain property were not being fed properly and appeared thin. They were willing to sign a statement.
Steps I followed:
- I went to the property and asked permission to see the dogs. The person´s wife gave me permission to see the dogs. The dogs were in two locations, and she gave me permission to visit both locations. I thus had my own knowledge of the circumstances.
- I obtained signed written statements from the neighbors who said the dogs sometimes went without being fed for a few days. The neighbors were willing to testify to this.
- I then checked with Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, the Animal Protective Society in Schenectady, and a few animal rescue groups to see if they could assist in removing the dogs from the property when a search warrant was executed. I also determined the best day for the majority of them to come and assist.
- I arranged a date and time and place for them all to meet (staging area) before we went to the property.
- I applied for a search warrant based on statements from the complainants and my own personal knowledge of the condition of the dogs. I applied for the search warrant a couple days before to ensure I would obtain one. (Example is attached.)
- At the appointed time and place, with all the animal agencies that had agreed to help assembled, I briefed them on how they should conduct themselves on the property. No loud talking, no laughing, no cussing, no talking to the press. I divided the group into two teams – one team for each property. I assigned a video camera operator to work with a state trooper on each property for evidence collection. ( Note: Never allow the press on the property or you could be sued. The owner can allow them on, but you cannot.)
- We formed a motorcade and went separately went to the two properties. A state trooper presented the search warrant to the person who answered the door at each property.
- Before any volunteer rescue groups entered the property, the video camera operator accompanied a state trooper assigned to each property. A video tape was made recording all the conditions existing on the property: the inadequate shelter, the lack of water and food, the condition of the dogs. Only factually observations were uttered by the state trooper that was directing the video camera operator, no derogatory remarks, all professional comments.
- After each team collected its video evidence, the rescue teams were allowed on the property to begin removing the dogs.
- To keep a correct tally, each crate was marked by the location number, that is Location 1 or Location 2. As the dogs were being placed into crates and loaded onto a vehicle, a person recorded the number of dogs placed into each vehicle. They gave the sheet to the driver. At the bottom of the hill, the trooper in charge counted the number of dogs in each vehicle and compared it to the sheet the driver presented to him, to ensure that no dogs got over looked or over counted.
- The dogs were removed to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society where a state police evidence person orchestrated the ID process.
- Dogs were unloaded a vehicle at a time. The vehicle pulled up to the examination area. As each crate was unloaded, the dog was taken out and assigned an individual identification number. That number was written on a veterinary exam sheet (that was to be subsequently filled out) . That same number was written with black marker on a small round tag that was affixed to a collar which was placed around the dog´s neck. That same number was placed on a large white index card. Also, on the dog’s sex, the name of the case, and the date were also marked on the index card. The evidence person took a photo of each dog with its corresponding index card in front of it. (An example of veterinary form is attached.)
- Each dog, along with its numbered veterinary sheet, was taken to be examined. As the veterinarian examined each dog, a scribe made check marks and wrote the vet’s comments on the dog´s numbered veterinary examination sheet.
- The veterinarian determined whether each dog was treatable or whether it was so debilitated as to require euthanasia. The scribe noted the disposition of each dog on the veterinary examination sheet.
- In addition to all the individual examination sheets, the veterinarian later wrote a deposition which she gave to the state troopers.
- After all dogs were ID-ed and examined, copies were made of all the veterinary examination sheets. The originals were given to the state police. The copies were retained by the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
- Decisions were made as to which dogs would be kept at Mohawk Hudson and which would be sent to other shelters/rescue groups. If an animal was going to another shelter, a form had to be filled out indicating where the dog was going. The other shelters/rescue groups were instructed to keep the dogs collar with number on the animal. The original of the transfer form was kept by Mohawk Hudson. The copy given to the other shelter/rescue group. (An example of form is attached.)
- I returned to the property and issued the owner an appearance ticket. I specified the date of his court appearance/arraignment to be a few days hence in order to give me time to complete all the Informations on the animals. (Our county ADA requires one Information for each animal.. Other counties may do it differently. Check with your ADA to see what he wants.)
- To offset the costs of caring for the animals, the Mohawk Hudson shelter submitted a security posting application based on Section 373, sub-section 6, of Article 26 of the Agriculture and Markets laws. (See example of security posting application) Mohawk Hudson is experienced and can present its own security posting at the arraignment; however, if a humane agency is not experience, it is best if they request that the ADA assist them with presenting the evidence, and they simply explain and defend the costs requested in the security posting application. If you need the help of humane agencies to house animals, you need to let them know that they can apply for this security posting to offset costs.
- At the arraignment, the owner was charged with 47 counts of animal cruelty. And so was his wife because she was aware of the cruelty going on. Also, at the arraignment, the Mohawk Hudson shelter presented the security posting application to the judge. The judge scheduled a hearing for the following week.
- At the security posting hearing the following week, Mohawk Hudson presented copies of photographs taken during examinations (copies obtained from the police) as well as the deposition of the veterinarian and individual dog examination sheets. as evidence that indicated a strong possibility that an act of animal cruelty occurred existed in this case. In a normal security posting hearing, the defendant is allowed to respond, but presents no evidence. After hearing the evidence and the response, the. Judge found that a strong possibility existed that an act of animal cruelty had occurred and ruled in favor of the petition. The defendant was informed that he was to pay the security deposit in five days or the dogs would be forfeited to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
- Over the next few days, the defendant conferred with his lawyer and the ADA. The defendant decided to accept a plea bargain being offered by the ADA which included surrendering the dogs to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
- Note: At the time of arrest, you can ask the defendant if he/she wants to surrender the animals to a humane agency. (An example of form is attached.)
Prepared by New York State Humane Association, PO Box 3068, Kingston, NY 12402