After a series of high-profile animal cruelty cases in the past year, Dallas officials have created a special unit to better prosecute those cases in the future.
Dallas assistant district attorney David Alex, Dallas Animal Services division manager Jody Jones and Dallas district attorney Craig Watkins held a conference on December 4 to announce the new animal cruelty unit. It will employ an additional assistant district attorney and criminal investigator position, at an estimated annual cost of $200,000.
Safer Dallas Better Dallas, a nonprofit law enforcement support organization, has committed to fund the first year. County Commissioner Elba Garcia, a longtime animal advocate, sits on the Safer Dallas Better Dallas board. Her fellow commissioner Maurine Dickey has already pledged $40,000. Others wishing to donate to the unit can do so here.
More than 2,500 cases of animal cruelty in Dallas County have been reported for 2012.
More than 2,500 cases of animal cruelty in Dallas County have been reported for 2012, says Rebecca Poling, a veteran animal advocate who covers social media for Dallas Animal Services.
"Animal cruelty is a problem in Dallas County," Poling says. "Dallas Animal Services can write all the tickets reporting animal cruelty they want, but you need an enforcement unit that understands what it takes to prosecute them. Now we'll have the training and connections and community support."
Poling praises Jody Jones, who joined Dallas Animal Services as division manager a year ago and has been working with the DA's office to find ways to better prosecute cruelty cases. Jones is a faculty member of the Animal Cruelty Advisory Council of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, an organization comprising animal cruelty investigators and prosecutors from around the country. Jones has consulted on and helped facilitate similar animal cruelty units throughout the country.
"Her arrival was very meaningful if you remember that two years ago, the manager [Tyrone McGill] was indicted on cruelty," Poling says. "Now we have a manager who has expertise in fighting animal cruelty and is involved in nurturing this new unit, which will help tremendously."
Four suspects were arrested for burning a puppy named Justice, who died. Animal blogger Larry Powell says Darius Ewing will be the first go to trial in January 2013.
"The whole change society has changed in the way we view animals," Poling says. "People are starting to realize that pets are parts of their family and want them to have the same protection as their other family members."