Four new books about doing animal-related law enforcement
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2004:
Animals: Welfare, Interests, & Rights
by David Favre
Animal Law & History Web Center
(Michigan State University/Detroit College
of Law, East Lansing, MI 48812), 2003.
504 pages, hardcover. $78.
Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence Against People
by Linda Merz-Perez
& Kathleen M. Heide
Alta Mira Press (c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1630
North Main Street, #367, Walnut Creek, California 94596), 2004.
176 pages, paperback. $24.95.
Brute Force: Policing Animal Cruelty
by Arnold Arluke
Purdue University Press ( P.O. Box 388,
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805), 2004. 170 pages,
The Lost Pet Chronicles
by Kat Albrecht
Bloomsbury (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010), 2004. 224
pages, hardcover. $23.95.
Animals: Welfare, Interests, & Rights is a casebook,
written by Michigan State University law professor David Favre to
help train attorneys who may eventually represent either the
prosecution or the defense in animal-related legal proceedings.
Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence Against People is an
abstract of research by sociologists and criminologists. Many of the
findings have already profoundly transformed courtroom attitudes
toward prosecuting and sentencing perpetrators of cruelty against
animals. Few cruelty sentences included jail time and few states
even gave prosecutors the ability to press felony charges for animal
abuse as recently as 1990. Jail time is now the norm for
perpetrators convicted of violent abuse, while more than 40 states
permit felony prosecution.
Brute Force: Policing Animal Cruelty may be the first formal
study of the culture of animal-related law enforcement. “Animal
cops” typical operate in the same grey area of hazily defined
authority and status as small-town constables, a step above dog
wardens but a step below regular police in training, authority, and
professional prestige. Much of Brute Force investigates how “animal
cops” learn to do their work despite the lack of support they often
encounter in their dealings with other peace officers, prosecutors,
judges, and often, the public. Frequently the “animal cops” shift
from a perspective emphasizing making arrests and winning cases to
less aggressively seeking and capitalizing upon the opportunity to
educate people about how animals should be treated.
The Lost Pet Chronicles recounts the career of longtime
police dispatcher Kathy Albrecht, who trained a bloodhound at her
own expense to detect remains, and then trained a Weimaraner to do
search-and-rescue work. Only briefly realizing her ambition of
becoming a police dog handler, Albrecht lost that career to
work-related injury, but developed a new career using her dogs to
find missing pets.
Which of these books will be most useful to people who are
already involved in animal-related law enforcement?
Which will be most helpful to viewers of Animal Planet who
think they might like to become humane officers?
A quick, glib answer would be “All of them,” but they will
not all be equally useful and helpful to every prospective reader.
Animals: Welfare, Interests, & Rights raises many questions that
an attorney might be called upon to address, yet gives very few
definitive answers. Certain legal issues pertaining to animals have
been fairly rigidly defined by legislation and jurisprudence, but
far more is in flux, reflecting the evolution of public attitudes.
Favre reviews title and ownership issues; bailments (a legal
term pertaining to having temporary custody of something);
veterinary malpractice; damages done by or to animals; private
regulation of ownership (e.g. by landlords, condominium
associations, and homeowners); state regulation of ownership;
anti-cruelty legislation; the use of animals in hunting, science,
agriculture, and fighting; wildlife management; access to the
courts; the U.S. federal Animal Welfare Act; animal rights as a
legal issue; and animal rights activism as it interfaces with
Making full use of the perspectives Favre presents requires
having the opportunity to discuss and debate. Animals: Welfare,
Interests, & Rights could be quite useful to many people who are not
actually law students but whose work or political activism requires
an understanding of existing animal-related precedents.
However, the casebook format might be difficult to use to
best advantage outside of the relatively formal structure of a
classroom or well-organized debating society.
Someone needs to play devil’s advocate, defending the
interests of both individual and institutional animal abusers, so
that everyone representing animals’ interests can develop
intellectual muscle. Someone else has to fairly referee the debate.
If this is done properly, sometimes the people playing the
pro-animal roles are going to lose, especially if they lead with
their feelings instead of a firm grasp of legal concepts. The
exercise could prove extremely valuable as a preliminary to
confronting real-life lawyers and legislators–but only if activists
have the self-discipline to put themselves through it.
Perspectives on the value of Animal Cruelty tend to vary with
the background that readers bring to it. After decades on
animal-related news beats, attending dozens of seminars and
conferences at which the psychology of abusers and the association of
animal abuse with violence toward humans was discussed by experts, I
found nothing in it that struck me as new or especially valuable,
yet a younger acquaintance whose involvement has been of much shorter
duration had almost the opposite view. To him, Animal Cruelty is an
Brute Force will probably be more helpful to cruelty
investigators across the spectrum of experience. Rookies will pick
up tips about coping with the many frustrating and stressful aspects
of the job. Veterans will identify with the war stories and find the
reflections of their own experience of value, both in adapting to
the changing social environment for animal cops and in helping to
teach and train the next generation to work the beat.
Never before have animal cops had as much opportunity to
bring criminals to justice. At the same time, because the stakes
are now higher, along with public expectations, never before have
animal cops had to pay as much attention to following correct police
The Lost Pet Chronicles is the one among these titles that
was not written for classroom use. It is a fluent and compelling
story, but it also teaches lessons about police work on almost every
page. Albrecht turned to training dogs partly in response to the
emotional isolation and estrangement from “civilians” that many
people in crisis-response occupations come to feel. Her successes as
a trainer were just barely enough to keep her going through many
Finding lost pets, Albrecht learned, required everything
she had picked up in police work about interviewing witnesses,
paying attention to detail, and establishing the time frame of
events. If Albrecht overlooked any aspect of context, her dogs were
hindered in their ability to help.
Most important, Albrecht came to recognize that what people
believe happened to a missing pet, based on anything from urban
legends to animal rights literature to psychic readers, often
interferes with their ability to perceive clear and simple evidence.
In particular, wild predators, especially coyotes, are responsible
for thousands of times more missing pets than pet thieves.
By paying attention to evidence ahead of theory, trusting
her dogs to find evidence, and then turning to laboratory work when
necessary to confirm evidence, Albrecht repeatedly discovered the
fate of animals of whom only a few tufts of hair were left.
While The Lost Pet Chronicles is not a training manual,
Albrecht in recent years has focused on teaching people, as well as
dogs, to find lost pets.