A couple of weeks ago I attended a Vermont’s Cruelty Response Summit hosted by the Vermont Humane Federation and supported by a generous donation from the ASPCA. After the summit I wrote this brief article for a local animal magazine called 4 Legs and A Tail. The complete article wan’t picked up by the magazine, but they will print a portion of the article in the Fall/Winter edition. I enjoyed writing this article so I thought I would share it here. Enjoy!
On a slightly overcast day in the middle of October over 40 people gathered in the Old Labor Hall in Barre to discuss the advancement of Vermont’s Cruelty Response System (CRS). The meeting was organized by Joanne Bourbeau of Vermont Human Federation (VHF) and VHF’s Animal Cruelty Response Coalition with the intention of developing specific steps that can be taken to improve and strengthen Vermont’s statewide response to crimes involving animals.
Vermont’s Animal Cruelty Response Coalition is made up of various agencies and individuals who have an interest in quick and effective enforcement of animal welfare laws. Members of the coalition include: shelters and rescue groups; Animal Control Offices; veterinarians; municipal officials; prosecutors; local, county, and State law enforcement ; and concerned citizen and volunteers. Together the members of the Coalition seek to make a difference for Vermont’s large and small animals through communication, education, and training around best practices in handling crimes involving animals.
The Cruelty Response System (CRS), which is a part of the work of the Coalition, has been developed to help distribute the responsibilities of animal welfare law enforcement across several resources so that no single agency or individual is overburdened. One of the key components of the CRS is the complaint website ReportAnimalCruelty.com(www.reportanimalcruelty.com) and its associated toll-free number 1-877-9HUMANE.
ReportAnimalCruelty.com is a user-friendly website that allows Vermont’s citizens to report suspected animal abuse into a confidential system. After a report is made into the system, the information is immediately disseminates to the lead enforcement and investigative agency in the county of the compliant. ReportAnimalCruelty.com has been a part of CRS since 2008 and has been collecting data about the reality of animal welfare issues in Vermont ever since.
This data collected from ReportAnimalCruelty.com, and its companion case management system known as “Animal Tracks”, is helpful in the advancement of legislative action and funding for animal welfare enforcement. However, these systems do not capture all of the animal cruelty complaints. Last year Vermont’s Department of Public Safety noted that there is a need to improve the current data collection system and create a centralized and uniform process that will include all sectors involved.
Capitalizing on the momentum and excitement from last year’s successful initiatives which included an “Animal CSI” workshop at Forget-me-Not Farm where teams of students practice investigative skills by processing a mock crime scene and a “Farm Animal Cruelty” workshop which covered acceptable livestock husbandry, Bourbeau, the Vermont Humane Federation, and the Animal Cruelty Response Coalition hosted the Animal Cruelty Response Summit in order to provided a platform to tackle hard issues like a centralized reporting system and other issues related to the promotion of animal welfare.
During the Summit’s day long activities, the participants divided up into four teams in order to develop action plans related to Cruelty Response System’s three focus areas: enforcement, training, and legislation. After eight hours of hard work, the teams reconvened in the central meeting room of the Old Labor Hall to reveal their action plans. Each plan demonstrated how the teams had progressed from identifying needs towards concrete next steps. A few of the next steps presented included support for law enforcement agencies in the implementation of standardized reporting, legislative awareness strategies, and training for humane society staff. Each plan focused on ways to successfully integrate law enforcement, local and state municipal agencies, and the private sector to better manage complaints, handle cases, and ultimately lead to better outcomes for the animals and agencies involved.
By the time Joanne presented her closing remarks, it was clear to see that there is significant interest in advancing animal welfare issues in the State. The reality is that the conclusion of the Summit actually marked the beginning of the next chapter in the hard work being tackled by Vermont’s Animal Cruelty Response Coalition. Hard work that would not be possible without the dedication of Vermont’s concerned citizens and professional who believe that through a collaborative effort we can promote positive societal changes for the benefit of animals and humans.
The Animal Cruelty Response Summit was made possible with the generous support of the ASPCA.