The National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse (NCPAA) was launched in May 2011 as a program of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). Through a grant from the Animal Welfare Trust, it was created in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to assist and train prosecutors and allied professional on the effective handling of animal abuse cases, including cases involving the co-occurrence of violence to animals and people
As the leader in providing training and technical assistance to the nation’s prosecutors, NDAA is expanding its desire to bring greater awareness to the often misunderstood nature of animal maltreatment and how it can interconnect with family violence and contribute to lethality issues for victims of interpersonal violence. With growing awareness by the public to recognize and report abuse, combined with increased attention by the media, prosecuting attorneys are struggling to properly address incidents of animal abuse in their community and properly hold offenders accountable.
Animal cruelty and neglect cases can be some of the most complex cases that investigators and prosecutors handle. Some of the reasons include: (1) the victim cannot give a statement or testify; (2) proving intent requires the gathering and arguing of circumstantial evidence; (3) scientific and forensic evidence is often required to prove the manner and cause of injuries and/or death; (4) large-scale seizure of animals (from an animal fighting enterprise, puppy mill, or hoarding situation) results in financial burdens on communities that may be required to house the animals as “evidence”; (5) crossing over to civil procedure to address the forfeiture of animals; (6) opinions regarding animals and the laws that protect them can be difficult to address in jury trials; and, (7) communities often respond publicly to animal abuse cases resulting in an outpouring of support (or criticism) to investigators and prosecutors who are confined or confused by the laws protecting animals.
Prosecutors who understand the co-occurrence of violent crimes are in a better position to prevent future violence toward people and animals, and protect their communities. When prosecutors understand the importance of enforcing animal cruelty laws and how they relate to protecting people, then those communities will be better protected from violence.
The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Liaison, Milja Zgonjanin, strives to train and keep local prosecutors current with the latest legal developments in this area. Ms. Zgonjanin also acts as our liaison with the Louisville Metro Animal Control Department and all other allied professionals.