I’ll always remember the images of sickly cows, caked in manure, being dragged around in chains at the Chino-based slaughterhouse. It was this series of disturbing images captured on video in 2008 by an undercover investigator from the Humane Society of the United States posing as a plant employee that would lead to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. It also resulted in my office prosecuting the most significant animal cruelty case in San Bernardino County history. This case caused me to refocus my office’s efforts on animal cruelty investigation and prosecution.
First, we spearheaded the creation of the San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACT) in 2012. With the assistance and leadership of Claudia Swing, Chief of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Administration, we brought together city and county animal control agencies, law enforcement, the Humane Society of San Bernardino, Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, domestic violence agencies, and others to coordinate and unite our efforts to fight animal cruelty. The Task Force has been a complete success and is now a model for the state and the nation. Today, there are 25-plus participating agencies from multiple counties involved with ACT.
In 2014 I was honored to be invited to be a member of the newly formed National Law Enforcement Council of The Humane Society of the United States. The council brings together current and former law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country to assist the organization in its efforts to strengthen and better enforce laws to stop animal cruelty and abuse. Through my communication and work with this council I was able to see just how prevalent the problem of animal cruelty was across the United States.
It is a sad fact that animal cruelty and neglect, cockfighting rings, dogfighting by criminal street gangs, animal hoarding, and companion animal abuse and co-occurring family violence are all issues still faced by San Bernardino County. The “Link” between animal cruelty and family violence (domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse) is widely recognized by law enforcement professionals and social science studies. Street gangs turn loving pets into trained fighting dogs to protect their criminal enterprises, for sport, and for profit. Thousands of chickens each year are maimed and killed in San Bernardino County due to cock fighting rings. We must do a better job of investigating and prosecuting these cowardly and heartless abusers of helpless animals.
As District Attorney, I believe the time is now to take the next step in our fight against animal cruelty. Effective prosecution of animal abuse requires a collaborative team approach, vertical prosecution, and specially trained prosecutors and investigators who are dedicated to protecting innocent animals. In short, it requires a special vertical prosecution unit dedicated solely to prosecuting animal cruelty.
I am proud to announce the creation of the District Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit (ACPU), which together with new stricter policies on prosecution, will help us accomplish the goal of investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty to the fullest extent of the law.