By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Police Department adopted its motto: “To Serve and To Protect” in 1955. Since then, several other law enforcement agencies have adopted it or a version of its spirit.
The question could be asked, “To serve and to protect whom?” The answer would be “people”, of course. But there is another group of living creatures that, most agree, are in need, too. Animals – because they are at the mercy of humans.
On the frontlines of combatting and preventing animal abuse is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
To better equip law enforcement agencies, who are also on the frontlines in this battle, with the tools they need for this effort, the Humane Society will conduct a free training for West Virginia law enforcement agencies.
Law enforcement from at least 12 state counties will receive a one-day training, hosted by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, focusing on animal cruelty investigations on Friday, May 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott in Morgantown.
Issues covered will be investigating puppy mills, animal cruelty and animal fighting, said Heather Severt, West Virginia State Director of HSUS.
“This is set to the be the largest training in terms of number of attendees of any law enforcement training The Humane Society of the United States has held in the state,” Severt noted.
She said it’s vital that law enforcement know how to identify and respond to animal cruelty in order to thwart it because they don’t usually get this type of information in their regular training – at least not in West Virginia.
“This training is very valuable for West Virginia law enforcement because we do not currently have any standard animal cruelty investigating training made available to officers to assist them,” Severt reports.
She said that without any standard training, the officers must rely only on themselves, basically.
“It’s kind of figuring it out as you go,” she explained. “They have absolutely no training, except their own self-teaching. That’s it.”
Severt and her colleagues say they are encouraged by the large positive response they’ve had from the law enforcement members and their departments by both their interest and attendance.
“It’s not their fault!” she exclaimed. “Once we make it available to them they are very eager to come out and participate in these training events. And we are grateful they are.”
Chief Deputy Perry Palmer of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department said he and several other members of the department will be there. He said those in law enforcement understand the need for the training.
“Law enforcement as a whole takes animal cruelty very seriously,” Palmer stated. “We deal with it usually on a daily basis, and a lot of the citizens we deal with have a pet or have other animals.”
He says that without training within their own departments, the opportunity to learn better how to respond to animal cruelty will help them better do their jobs for all.
“The training is going to be a great asset for us,” Palmer stated. “They’re going to provide helpful tips when we go out on calls to know what tell-tale signs to look for to tell if the animal has [appropriate] food, water and shelter.”
Palmer said he’s very pleased the Humane Society is willing to come out and do the free trainings.
“We really appreciate the Humane Society,” he stated.
Severt said she’s very pleased that for the first time, prosecuting attorneys will also be attending the training event. “That’s very big …very exciting!” she exclaimed.
While this training is nearly full, Severt said that those law enforcement agencies in other counties who are interested in receiving this training and/or hosting a training can contact her online at [email protected]
“I can help them set up a similar free training in their county sometime in the near future,” Severt stated.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated “most effective” by its peers. For 60 years, the organization has celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. The Humane Society is the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year. And the society prevents cruelty to millions more through its advocacy campaigns.
To learn more about the organization and its transformational change for animals, visit them online at humanesociety.org.