I have been on all sides of the fence: prosecuting attorney, animal protection lobbyist (federal and state arenas), animal advocate, shelter volunteer, author and national trainer on animal protection issues, and a pet parent. I know how difficult it is for people to learn about animals abuse; and even more frustrating to watch how an animal abuse prosecution unfolds (or may not unfold at all). I have dealt with my fair share of prosecutors who are wonderful on these cases and go above and beyond the call of duty; I’ve also dealt with prosecutors who could care less and simply do nothing for our animal victims.
I have spent a large portion of my career trying to get everyone, including prosecutors, to take animal abuse more seriously and to do more each day to help animals and keep them safe. It’s why I wrote and published Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. And this is why I currently run the National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse at the National District Attorneys Association. We are available to train prosecutors and strategize with them on their cases; we don’t call them up to yell at them when we receive a complaint about their conduct.
This afternoon, I listened for 30 minutes to a concerned citizen/animal activist speak at me (not with me) about the case of a dog death that she feels is not being properly handled by the prosecutor or the veterinarian. It was obvious that she was upset (livid might be a better word) and nothing I could say could console her. As much as I tried to give her advice on how to approach the prosecutor, she just became louder and louder and would not listen. She actually accused me of not caring about animals (clearly, she has no idea what I’ve done to put myself in jeopardy in order to protect animals and steps that I take every single day to help them).
So this is why I am writing about screaming …. It will get you nowhere with a prosecutor, or frankly anyone else, including me. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar has merit. If someone were to approach you in an aggressive tone of voice and start attacking you about everything that you’re doing wrong, you would naturally be resistant to listening and would likely walk away, hang up the phone, or delete the email. Getting nasty and aggressive, especially when you care about animals and want to help them, is actually doing more harm to the animals. This is when people are dismissively referred to as “animal activists”, and it’s not said as a compliment.
This is why I talk to people about how to approach prosecutors. I even taught a webinar last December entitled Handling Community Reaction to Animal Abuse where I addressed animal abuse from all sides of the aisle. I will be the first to admit that there are prosecutors who give two hoots about animal abuse cases (and they likely do the same thing with other crimes); but I also know that there are a growing number of prosecutors who do care about these cases.
There are many organizations available, like NDAA, who are there to support and offer resources. So no one, including prosecutors, need to go it alone.
I also know how passionate people can get about the mistreatment of animals and, what appears to be, lack of enforcement of the laws. I know … I’ve been there. But you will get nowhere real fast if you approach someone with an accusatory, aggressive and hostile manner and demand justice in the same breath. It will not happen! And who loses …. The animal loses.
I am passionate about protecting animals as much as anyone and instead of berating prosecutors and others about their lack of professionalism, I am doing something about it by offering free trainings and resources. If I were stand up in front of a room of prosecutors and investigators and scream at them about everything they are doing wrong, I would never be invited to train anyone, anywhere, ever again.
We can all convey our message and our desire to help without alienating those in a position of power. Be helpful, be a resource, be persistent, and above all, be kind. After all, the animals would want us to do that on our behalf.
To learn more on how to be an effective animal advocate, grab a copy of my book Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please comment and share your ideas!
Allie and Lucy
Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets.
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