NY State Police Academy Hosts NYSHA Training on Investigating Animal Cruelty

Where was the safest place to be on June 29? The NYS Police Academy in Albany! Over 100 attendees, comprising NYS Troopers from various barracks, police officers from many municipal police departments, and deputies from numerous Sheriff’s departments, along with several interested civilians — all attended NYSHA’s day-long workshop on Investigating Animal Cruelty. The workshop was co-sponsored by the NY State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice Services that has been supporting NYSHA’s training programs for years.

As a result of the COVID pandemic, NYSHA’s workshops had been on hold since late 2019, so there was a growing need for this training, and the NY State Police reached out to NYSHA to provide it. Though the workshop presented instruction on investigating all types of animal crimes, a focus was placed on recognizing and addressing horse cruelty and neglect, as the State Police had informed NYSHA that they were receiving many calls on these situations.

Speakers for the NY State Police Academy hosted NYSHA Training on Investigating Animal Cruelty
NYSP Lt. Jared Duffy, ADA Jennifer McCanney, Pat Valusek (NYSHA), Steven Naile, DVM, and Scott Neff (Division of Criminal Justice Services)

This workshop introduced two additional expert presenters to the NYSHA roster: Dr. Steven Naile, a well-known equine veterinarian, recently retired from the Equine Clinic at Oakencroft, and Jennifer McCanney, Esq., Executive Assistant District Attorney with the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. They complemented seasoned NYSHA speakers, Harold Hovel, Ph.D. and retired NYS Police BCI Investigator Susan McDonough. The combined knowledge of these speakers provided a full day of excellent training.

Workshop Sessions:

  • Dr. Hovel led off with a discussion of the correlation between animal abuse and human violence. His years-long study of this phenomenon has resulted in his creating a comprehensive booklet on the topic, available as a free download on the NYSHA website.
  • Investigator McDonough followed with an in depth exploration of the animal cruelty laws and an explanation of how to apply them to various cruelty cases based on her years of experience.
  • Dr. Naile opened the afternoon session by explaining what to look for when investigating equine cruelty, examining every aspect of the scene from the physical condition of the horses to the quality of the hay and verifying any veterinary and farrier care the owner said the animals may have received.
  • ADA McCanney, the closing speaker, drove home the point that the information presented throughout the day will help you make your case. All that you do in the course of an investigation and the way you do it determines the final outcome of the case. For example, the quality of the photos and the video, the careful collection of the evidence, and the interviews with the defendants, are all crucial. Attention must be paid to all elements to get the best outcome for a cruelty case. The animals cannot testify; thus, you as the officer must be the one who tells their story for them.

In addition to the information from the speakers, the attendees received a packet full of information to use in their investigations, ranging from examples of search warrants to use in animal cruelty cases to court-ready forms that veterinarians can use to easily document animal evaluations. The packets also contained copies of all the speakers’ presentations for future reference.

The evaluation forms indicated that the attendees were impressed with the training, with comments such as, “Comprehensive and thorough.” “Should be offered more often.” “It was a great training. I appreciated the level of knowledge of the speakers.” It may not have been the most pleasant way to spend a summer day, but the evals indicated it had been well worth it.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXXVIII, Fall 2021.