As legal cases involving animal crimes become more complex, the annual OHS Victim to Verdict conference is an opportunity for attorneys, veterinarians, vet techs, law enforcement officers and animal shelter staff to sharpen their knowledge of the law and bring stronger cases against animal offenders.
The fourth annual conference was held recently in Portland and drew more than 100 people from 38 agencies throughout the state. Speakers included nationally recognized experts from Oregon, the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA) and spcaLA, a southern California nonprofit.
Jake Kamins, Oregon’s Animal Cruelty Deputy District Attorney, began the session with a discussion of evidence handling. Kamins talked about the importance of establishing a chain of custody that documents the transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical evidence.
Madeline Bernstein, spcaLA president, provided expert tips on preparing to testify in an animal cruelty case and surviving cross examination. Later in the day, she conducted mock courtroom scenarios for attendees.
The ASPCA’s Dr. Pamela Reid explained the behavioral cues investigators should recognize and capture through video and photographs on scene. Behaviors associated with animals from hoarding and puppy mill cases can provide strong evidence of chronic confinement and neglect and strengthen animal cruelty prosecutions.
OHS Humane Special Agents are commissioned to enforce animal cruelty laws throughout Oregon and are the only such law enforcement agents in the state. Their work is supported through donations to OHS, as they receive no government funds.