June 6-- In the aftermath of an animal cruelty case in Higgston which drew national attention, area law enforcement and animal control officers got some expert training on the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in Georgia.
The seminar Thursday at Brewton-Parker College was hosted by the sheriffs in Montgomery and Candler Counties and the City of Metter Animal Control Office.
Attorney Claudine Wilkins, founder of Animal Law Source, conducted the training, "I think knowledge is the key to everything. If we educate local law enforcement on what they can and can't do in various animal cruelty cases, they're going to do it. This is about lack of knowledge."
Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin agrees, "It's good training and it's training some of these officers have never seen before," and he hopes the training will help in the prosecution of future animal cruelty cases, "For these animals in the county that have been neglected, these officers have got some training and they may be able to spot it now where before they weren't, it's definitely an asset."
According to Wilkins, there are laws on the books in Georgia that officers need to enforce regarding animal cruelty charges,"Local sheriffs, police officers and animal control officers have the state law behind them to charge a defendant with animal cruelty right now. Our law was amended in 2014 and it's one of the better laws in the United States."
She also has advice for citizens who observe animal cruelty, "If it's a circumstance where an animal is about to die, you call 911 just like you would if you saw a child in front of you suffering. You sometimes see neglect occurring over a period of time and if you have local animal control, you should call them, but when you see animal cruelty, 911 is the number one thing to do."
"The sheriffs or police certainly have to be involved and the biggest confusion I see is that they often think the Department of Agriculture involves themselves in animal cases. They do but they only involve themselves in licensed facilities or pet dealers. The truth of the matter is they're not a criminal arm of our law, it's the local jurisdictions which have to initiate the animal cruelty charges," Wilkins points out.