AR-News: (MA - US) New training course on animal cruelty for law
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Thu Feb 5 14:54:54 EST 2004
Animal cruelty can be sign of bigger trouble
By Kate Abbott - February, 04 2004
PITTSFIELD — A new training course from the Human/Animal Violence Network and the Berkshire Humane Society will encourage animal control officers and other law enforcement officials to remember that violence to animals often leads to greater violence, according to veterinarian Lorna Grande.
Grande, who has a practice in Berkshire County and is a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, founded the Human/Animal Violence Network (HAVEN) in 2001. Near the end of the federal grant that funded its first three years, the network has received a $1,500 “bridge grant” from the general fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to continue its work in dealing with patterns of violence that involve families and pets.
The grant will fund the training courses for Berkshire animal control officers, Grande said. Tom Flanagan, a former sergeant in the Boston Police Department who now works for the Animal Rescue League, will teach officers how to be more aware of the connection between animal cruelty and violence.
“We hope to make animal control officers feel like part of the coalition,” Grande said.“Sometimes a complaint about a pet indicates a place where people need services. Many animal control officers and other officials are intuitively aware of this.”
Animal control officers may see evidence of trouble in a family before many other services or officials do, Grande said. Mistreatment of animals is often the most obvious sign that a family needs help of some kind and may be the only sign an outsider sees. A pet hurt in front of children is not a great step from child abuse, according to Grande.
If officials become aware of such warning signs, they may be able to act upon them and help people who are vulnerable. Over the last year, county police officers responding to animal complaints have detected deeper trouble within a family, Grande said. She said she hopes local officials realize more often that animal violence is not only evidence of a greater trouble — it can also be used as legal evidence.
She sais she will also work to ensure that animal control officers know what services they can access, if they do find a family in need of help. Some Berkshire towns have licensed animal control officers, but many have part-time officials. Part of HAVEN’s mission is to help veterinarians, animal control officers, Department of Social Services representatives and police officers communicate with each other.
Those officials often work with the same people but do not always realize other agencies are involved or think to contact each other, Grande said. They tend to “compartmentalize,” she said: If someone from the Department of Social Services comes to a family to look at the children, they tend to focus on the children, and if a veterinarian treats that family’s dog, the vet tends to focus on the dog.
Grande said HAVEN does not intend to turn animal control officers into police officers but may introduce them to police officers and social service employees who they can contact later if they need to.
“We now have ACOs who know DSS people, and Elizabeth Freeman Center people who know people from Berkshire Families and Children,” Grande said.
The group also has members from Berkshire Community College, Berkshire Humane Society, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other organizations. It has sponsored many programs on the potential connection between animal and human violence, including a program with the Humane Society for veterinarians on the vet’s role in animal abuse. Another at the Elizabeth Freeman Center focused on the treatment of children who are cruel to animals. Members of HAVEN meet every six weeks.
Grande decided to found HAVEN after she became a big sister in Pittsfield’s Big Brother/Big Sister Program and after working in a veterinary practice in which she saw a lot of neglect cases. In those cases, she said, she often thought the families of the neglected animals needed help. When BCC received a grant to deal with family violence, Grande set up the “First Strike” conference, under the auspices of the U.S. Humane Society
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