Law enforcement learn about animal cruelty
Area law enforcement learned how to be better equipped to deal with an animal cruelty call on Thursday.
A training held by the Humane Society of the United States as a part of the Southwest Crime Conference at the North Dakota Highway Patrol office in Dickinson and was the first HSUS animal cruelty training course designed specifically for law enforcement in North Dakota.
Michael Gabrielson, an animal cruelty and fighting investigations trainer and consultant for the Humane Society, gave a presentation about animal cruelty and animal fighting to law enforcement agencies from Dickinson and Bismarck.
He emphasized there is a link between animal abuse and other forms of crime, including domestic abuse and other crimes against people.
Gabrielson, who is also a law enforcement officer in Ohio, said 99 percent of people who are arrested for animal cruelty have had previous criminal activity on their records and said it is important for officers to treat an animal cruelty call just as they would any other type of crime.
“When you do find people who are involved in animal cruelty, you will often find if you run their criminal history that they have assaults, domestic violence and occasionally homicides,” Gabrielson said. “... It’s not a big step for somebody who abuses animals to hurt you (an officer) or another person.”
Officers learned warning signs of possible abuse and how to implement proper procedures for investigating those types of crimes.
Capt. David Wilkie of the Dickinson Police Department said while egregious cases of animal cruelty have not been a major problem in Dickinson, animal abandonment has been. He said that when people left after as oil business began to decline, the city experienced an increase of animals running loose in the streets and being abandoned in apartments and homes.
Kim Wills, an animal control officer for the city of Dickinson, said the Dickinson Animal Shelter currently only has two dogs, but people will sometimes leave animals tied up outside of the shelter because they can no longer care for them.
“When the oil boom first decreased, we picked up a lot of animals because they were being left behind in the apartments,” Wills said. “People know we don’t really take surrenders and so they just throw them out.”
Wilkie said he found the seminar to be informative and important to him because animals are important to him as well. He said the training allowed him to learn what abuse and cruelty is when he comes across it.
“Even though we don’t see it a lot here, it’s important to be able to identify it when you do see it,” he said.
Wilkie said the training can also be beneficial for other officers.
“A lot of those cases (animal cruelty and abuse) are developed from other cases,” Wilkie said. “So if an officer responds to a theft call and notices something at the home with an animal then it gives you reason to look a little more into what’s going on there.”
Ways for the public to help
According to the Humane Society, some of the most common signs of possible animal abuse or cruelty are hoarding animals, lack of veterinary care, animal abandonment, inadequate shelter and chained dogs. TJ Jerke, the Humane Society's North Dakota director, encouraged people to contact law enforcement if they believe that someone may be abusing their animals.
“If somebody believes an animal is being abused, neglected or has some inhumane treatment they should contact their local police department or their county sheriff’s and describe the situation to whomever they’re speaking with and ask for an animal welfare check,” he said.
Jerke also said there are many local resources for people to use across the area if there may be troublesome, but not necessarily illegal behavior occurring.
“If there’s an issue that may not be animal neglect, someone just needs a helping hand, there are organizations across the state that phenomenal and willing to help out in some capacity,” Jerke said.