JONESBORO/HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – Officials with Northeast Arkansans for Animals told Region 8 News an Arkansas state law is making it more difficult to prosecute criminals who violate animal cruelty, abuse and neglect laws. According to Wannda Turner, animal abuse investigators now have to be followed by a certified law enforcement officer during individual raids.
"With the new legislation, we actually have to have law enforcement accompany us. Now we can push forward with that but the new law makes it a little more difficult for animal rescues to do some work," said Turner. "It's not that it has slowed down. What has slowed down is our ability to get it prosecuted because now we have to involve law enforcement a lot more than we did in the early parts of the investigation."
Turner said animal abuse crimes happen all over Region 8, but recently the crime has increased.
"They don't have the economic or manpower to work abuse cases," said Turner. "They're busy with thefts and drug problems so they really don't have the manpower."
Turner said many rural communities have a difficult time getting involved in the investigation because other criminal activity needs to be dealt with.
"Animals, animal neglect and animal abuse get pushed down on the list and lots of communities don't have animal control officers. Their sheriff's office and police officers are the ones that have to make the call. They don't have a chance," said Turner.
Poinsett County has worked several animal abuse investigations over the past year. According to Chris Hold, Poinsett County Chief Deputy, the office has worked at least four animal abuse investigations in the last year.
"I would characterize it more as animal neglect and sometimes it's out of necessity and they have to make choices between paying their home bills or taking care of their animals like they should be," said Holt.
Holt said Northeast Arkansans for Animals serves as the county's humane society and does 80% of the leg work in investigations.
"They provide expert testimony during the prosecution of the case," said Holt. "We take their information and if a warrant, search warrant or an arrest warrant needs to be issued, we take their information and put that in the affidavit for the warrant."
Turner said NAFA will hold a seminar to train volunteers how to identify ill animals through the Responsible for Life campaign.
"They first have to report it. Secondly they have to have pertinent information about exactly where the animal is, a physical address and lots of times we have to have the name of the property owner," said Turner. "Sometimes people don't want to get involved and that's okay. Lots of times people remain anonymous, but they still have to come forward and provide us with the information and then say, you know, I need to remain anonymous."
NAFA currently has two animal abuse investigators to serve seven counties. Turner hopes to have at least one investigator for each county.
"Until we physically see it or until it physically happens in front of someone that's willing to testify, sometimes we can't do anything," said Turner.
For more information about Northeast Arkansans for Animals, click here.
"We're trying to get people to understand that while dogs and cats are property, they are living breathing entities that can only depend on us," said Turner. "What it will do is help the people realize that we're not going to put up with it and while that sounds harsh, that's really what it is. We're not going to tolerate people anymore allowing animals to live substandard lifestyles."