Defenders uncover stats on animal abuse cases

Defenders probe: Who tracks animal cruelty cases?

animal-cruelty-generic

SAN ANTONIO - Sentenced to three years in prison, 21-year-old Austin Patterson made headlines in 2010 for the torture and grizzly killings of three cats.

"It was just a truly horrible maiming and mutilating case of torture of cats," said First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg.

Another highly publicized case Herberg recalls is that of Herlinda Trigo, who was accused of tying her dog to the bumper of a car and dragging it at a high rate of speed.

"It was a horrendous allegation if it's true, but there are numerous witnesses apparently, and we are prosecuting that case vigorously, I assure you," Herberg said.

In 2012, Animal Care Services received 1,045 complaints, 27 which developed into cases that were filed with the DA's office.  

In just the first six months of 2013, ACS logged 515 complaints and of those, 79 cases were filed with the DA's office.

"I think there is some increased enforcement by ACS. I think they have done a great job of trying to really tackle this problem, Herberg said.

ACS spokeswoman Lisa Norwood explained they have streamlined their process of presenting cases to the DA's office in an effort to send more cases for prosecution.

Despite having a greater number of cases presented to the DA in the last year and a half, there were more than a 1,000 complaints that did not get filed with the DA

According to Norwood, some of those were handled by police, some didn't have any merit, and others didn't materialize.

"The important thing to remember about animal cruelty (or) animal neglect is that it's not what you think you know, it's what you can prove," Norwood said.     

As for the potential cases that have fallen through the cracks, Norwood said ACS doesn't track that.

The DA's office didn't have animal cruelty/neglect cases systematically categorized, but upon request they were able to account for each one.

Of the 106 ACS cases filed with the DA's office during the last year, 24 were sentenced, 62 are awaiting trial, 19 are awaiting indictment, and one was dismissed.

Trigo's case is one of the 62 awaiting trial. If convicted, the DA's office will be seeking prison time.

"The ones that we want prison time on are the torture cases where somebody is intentionally abusing the animal. After all, animals can't speak for themselves. We have to do that," Herberg said.

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