People who abuse animals will be getting more “attention” from San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.
The DA announced Wednesday she is launching the office’s first-ever Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit, which, among other things, will provide “investigative support and dedicated expertise for animal abuse cases,” according to Stephan’s office.
Those who harm animals are more likely to commit violent crimes against people, so there is incentive for prosecutors to investigate animal cruelty cases, according to Stephans.
“Animal cruelty can be horrific. It is also one of the earliest and most dramatic indicators that an individual may be developing a pattern of seeking power and control through abusing others,” she said. “When animals in a home are abused or neglected, it is a warning sign that others in the household may be in danger.”
“Studies show that animal abuse is more prevalent in homes that experience child abuse and domestic violence, and 43 percent of school shooters have animal abuse in their background,” according to a statement from Stephan’s office. “Often, animal abuse crimes also have a nexus to mental illness. Since 2014, the District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 248 animal cruelty-related cases, many of which resulted in lengthy prison sentences for defendants with previous criminal histories.”
The new Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit will reside within the DA’s Family Protection Division. The unit will work closely with police, sheriff’s deputies, the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, animal control officers, the San Diego Humane Society, and others to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty cases “vertically” (one prosecutor handling the case from beginning to end.)
“The creation of the animal cruelty unit is an important step in holding people accountable for their actions,” said Dan DeSousa, director of the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. “Together with the animal control and humane officers, the District Attorney’s Office will now help protect those without a voice, namely the animals in our communities.”