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Animal Protection and Welfare Training Becomes Essential to Law Enforcement

By Gary P. Maddox, PhD, Director, Cruelty Investigators Academy, Code 3 Associates, Incorporated, Longmont, Colorado

f you are a Cheers fan, you might recall the classic line of the character Norm Peterson, a bar patron regular who declared, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear!”

I sometimes wonder if Norm was, perhaps, a law enforcement prophet of sorts. Animal incidents with police officers are subjects of significant online traction. Sadly, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the incidents reported online portray law enforcement officers—either directly or indirectly—as callous, heartless executioners of innocent, harmless family pets, livestock, exotic animals, and so forth. Inflammatory headlines do not bode well for the law enforcement profession.

I have been a practitioner, an educator, and a trainer for nearly four decades. During that time I have learned that when a real or potentially vexing police or public safety liability risk or threat issue arises, we in law enforcement are—usually—reasonably responsive with proper and pertinent training, education, policy development, implementation, follow-up review, and revision as time, practice, or court rulings determine. Further, in my experience this has nearly always been so as pertains to the more traditional law enforcement issues and concerns for practical and constitutionally appropriate approaches to use of force and weapons applications; communications skills; vehicular and subject pursuits; contact, detention, and arrest situations; and the like. However, this has been true only as these issues have relevance to humans, not as these same issues pertain to animals and the growing required or otherwise necessary police response to and responsibility for animal protection, safety, and welfare.

To this end, in the early 1990s, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Code 3 Associates Incorporated, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Longmont, Colorado, dedicated to providing professional animal disaster response and resources to communities. Executive Director Jim Boller, who is the former director of field services and training for the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well as a longtime featured member of the Animal Planet television program Animal Cops: Houston, noted that he is familiar with the challenges police face:

I have spoken and met with many law enforcement officers who have gone through credible animal awareness training programs . . . all of whom have told me that such training has provided them a much safer and more legally defensible way to approach situations involving or including animals. Similarly, just as many other law enforcement officers, after having gone through this sort of training, tell me they wish they would have acquired this insight earlier regarding many of the animal-involved responses they had dealt with in the past because, in hindsight, they would have handled these calls or assignments in a manner that would have resulted in a more favorable outcome for the animals; the owners; and, in many instances, the officer and the department. With more and more jurisdictions cutting back on animalcontrol budgets, more and more law enforcement agencies are being required to pick up much of that slack and, as such, law enforcement officers need to be properly trained and prepared to do so.1

In addition to and equally as disconcerting as officer-animal related shooting incidents, Boller points out that

Animal cruelty and abuse is a crime in all 50 states. What is key here, yet often remains overlooked or ignored, is how proper animal response training and education for law enforcement—along with an understanding of cruelty, neglect, and abuse issues—impacts upon and frequently ties into other crimes. A recent FBI study reveals that states that take or have taken a more proactive stance in identifying and prosecuting animal-related crimes have lower overall crime rates when it comes to other crimes—both nonviolent as well as violent.2 In my experience, this is far from a mere coincidence. Understanding how animals are or may be used by criminals is just another piece of the puzzle that could and should be utilized by law enforcement in identifying aggressive, violent, or escalating violent behavioral patterns in humans, as well as the importance of officer safety and proper approach and response when entering a scene where animals may be present or kept.3

The current literature supports both Boller and the FBI in this regard: “The effects of animal cruelty reach beyond the initial animal victims of these incidents. Accumulating empirical evidence is demonstrating a strong association between animal cruelty and other crimes, including interpersonal violence, illegal possession of drugs and guns, and property destruction.”4 And, “moreover, participation in animal cruelty in childhood is a significant marker for the development of aggressive and antisocial behavior, as well as a predictor of individuals who might engage in domestic violence.”5

The evidence is mounting and the facts are painfully obvious. Nationally, community animal control responsibilities and related animal welfare issues are, as Boller noted, increasingly being absorbed into the local law enforcement function, either as a matter of economic necessity or because this has been decreed by community leaders as, logistically, the smart or the right thing for local governments to do. At the same time, while animals and pets are still by law considered to be personal property, they are also evolving into something of far greater relevance and significance than, for example, a neglected baseball glove or a vandalized motor vehicle. In short, animals today are being recognized both legally and socially as living, breathing, and—at times—suffering victims, totally dependent on the generosity and the understanding of the human conscience and spirit.

For example, consider the Texas appellate court ruling stating that the law entitles the owners of a wrongfully euthanized dog to recover “sentimental” or “intrinsic” damages from a defendant for the loss of the pet. In this case, Fort Worth’s Second Court of Appeals, in overturning a lower court’s dismissal of the case, provides a novel interpretation of a 120-year-old precedent from the Texas Supreme Court holding that plaintiffs could recover only an animal’s “market value.” In its decision issued November 3, 2011, the court states, “Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners. Today, we interpret timeworn Supreme Court law in light of subsequent court law to acknowledge that the special value of ‘man’s best friend’ should be protected.”6

Or, consider the August 2012 Oregon court decision that quietly issued a ruling with resounding implications for law enforcement. In State v. Weldon, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that animals, not their owners, are the actual victims in criminal animal cruelty cases. While this may sound simplistic and self-evident, the ruling pushes the issue of animals’ statuses in the courts and in lawmaking bodies across the United States. In Weldon, the court went so far as to address the more contentious question of whether animals, while legally classified as property, could be protected by the law in a manner much as humans are. The answer was a resounding yes: “First, although numerous other state criminal code provisions defined a victim as ‘human,’ the animal cruelty sections did not. Second, other non-humans had previously been identified as victims of particular crimes, such as ‘the public.’ Third, there was no limitation in the animal cruelty statutes treating animals solely as property in that context. Thus, according to the Weldon decision, animals clearly could be considered victims.”7

From its inception, the mission of Code 3 Associates Incorporated has been to provide professional animal response education in animal welfare interests; solid, practical, and pragmatic training for professionals involved in animal-related law enforcement and other animal emergency issues; and methods to safely and effectively carry out lawful and humane responsibilities to these animals, their owners, and their communities. In order to accomplish that mission, the nonprofit group offers programs and courses focused on animal and human behavior, cruelty, neglect, abuse, and pertinent legal aspects and concerns relevant to each. These programs and courses are designed for a wide variety of professionals and provide education, training, and professional advice for municipal, county, and state law enforcement; animal rescue personnel; firefighters; animal control officers; veterinary professionals; first responders; animal welfare workers; prosecutors; U.S. and State Department of Agriculture employees; and members of technical animal rescue groups throughout the United States and around the world.

The courses and classes are certified by and are presented in partnership with Colorado State University and the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Individual Code 3 Associates faculty members are chosen for their national and international hands-on expertise and experiences in the field as well as for their teaching styles and training delivery. Current courses and classes include

  • Cruelty Investigators Academy (certified animal cruelty investigations training)
  • Equine Investigations Academy (certified humane investigations classes focused on horses)
  • Animal Disaster Responder Academy (certified animal rescue classes)
  • Big Useful Livestock Lessons (large animal rescue training)
  • Ice Rescue (human and animal ice rescue training)
  • Technical Animal Rescue
  • Wildland Fire Class
  • Emergency Equine Response Unit Classes: Large Animal Rescue Operations, Large Animal Ice Rescue, and Basic Equine Awareness and Response
  • Special Classes (the nonprofit tailor courses to an agency’s specific training needs)

The reality is clear. Individuals in law enforcement administration and education must begin to address training pursuant to animal welfare issues. ♦


1Jim Boller, personal interview, July 17, 2012.
2Federal Bureau of Investigation. Report on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Adding Animal Cruelty Crimes as a Separate Crime Category to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, As Required by H.R. 108-792 and P.L. 108-447, Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005.
3Boller, personal interview, July 17, 2012.
4Lynn A. Addington and Mary Lou Randour, Animal Cruelty Crime Statistics: Findings from a Survey of State Uniform Crime Reporting Programs (Washington D.C.: Animal Welfare Institute, Spring 2012), 2,, (accessed August 22, 2012) citing Frank R. Ascione, “Animal Abuse and Youth Violence,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin (September 2001), (accessed August 22, 2012); and Michael G. Vaughn et al., “Correlates of Cruelty to Animals in the United States: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions,” Journal of Psychiatric Research 43, no. 15 (October 2009): 1213–1218, (accessed August 22, 2012).
5Lynn A. Addington and Mary Lou Randour, Animal Cruelty Crime Statistics: Findings from a Survey of State Uniform Crime Reporting Programs (Washington D.C.: Animal Welfare Institute, Spring 2012), 2,, (accessed August 22, 2012) citing Linda Merz-Perez and Kathleen M. Heide, Animal Cruelty: Pathways to Violence against People (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2003); and Benita J. Walton-Moss et al., “Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence and Associated Injury among Urban Women,” Journal of Community Health 30, no. 5 (2005): 377–389.
6Joel McDurmon, “Texas Court Ruling Gives Pets Higher Legal Status,”American Vision News, January 9, 2012, (accessed August 22, 2012); and Medlen v. Strickland, 353 S.W.3d 576, 580–581 (Tex. App.–Fort Worth 2011).
7Kate Burke, “Court Acknowledges Animals’ Individual Protections under Law,” Durango Herald, August 11, 2012, (accessed August 22, 2012).

Please cite as:

Gary P. Maddox, "Animal Protection and Welfare Training Becomes Essential to Law Enforcement," The Police Chief 79 (November 2012): 28–31.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. , November 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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