UNITING BROWARD: GIVING A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS

Every year, thousands of animal cruelty cases are reported nationwide. These cases can result from either deliberate abuse or merely the failure to take proper care of an animal. As sheriff of Broward County, it is my duty to ensure that all animals in our community are protected. Whether you live in an urban or a rural community, animal abuse is a serious crime. Studies reveal a strong correlation between animal cruelty and many other crimes. If an individual is capable of harming an animal, there is a greater likelihood of other forms of abuse, from child abuse and domestic violence to battery and sexual assault. By identifying animal abuse as a likely early indicator of other serious problems in a household, we can help prevent the cycle of violence.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit (SVU) is comprised of highly skilled, trained and experienced detectives responsible for investigating all felony abuse and neglect crimes, including crimes against animals, children and the elderly, as well as domestic violence and sex crimes. Recognizing that these crimes require special expertise and sensitivity, BSO SVU has also broadened “Animal Abuse and Animal Fighting Crimes Training” for all deputies. This training better equips law enforcement to recognize signs of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect, and provides the necessary techniques for preserving the on-scene evidence. It is our goal to increase awareness about the possible correlation between animal cruelty and subsequent future violent crimes against people.

Not every call we receive concerning an animal is related to abuse. Many calls for service are for pets that are missing or in distress; however, these cases require the same resources for investigation. Often a deputy’s time is spent going door to door, conducting neighborhood canvasses in an attempt to locate the animal’s owner. Unfortunately, when the owner cannot be located, the animal may be taken to Broward Animal Care (BAC). One way the community can assist law enforcement in reuniting animals with their owners is by microchipping pets. Collars and name tags can easily fall off, but the microchip is inserted with a simple injection and is designed to stay in place. In essence, the chip provides a permanent, lifetime identification. Animal shelters, rescues, animal control, veterinarians and law enforcement routinely look for microchips to return lost pets quickly to their rightful owner. BSO’s Cooper City district office partnered with local veterinarians and initiated a pilot program to microchip pets free of charge to the residents. The Cooper City “Chip-a-Pet” Program launched earlier this year, and we are exploring expansion of the program into additional cities.

For some who suffer from physical or emotional pain, a bond with an animal can be a source of relief. Therapy animals have proven to be an effective treatment method for abused children and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We are embracing the utilization of animal-assisted therapy into existing BSO programs to address issues such as mental illness.

By working together, we can give a voice to the voiceless and help prevent animal abuse in Broward County. If you think an animal is being abused, neglected, used for baiting/fighting and/or kept in inhumane conditions, it is your responsibility to do – and say – something about it. Your involvement may be an animal’s only hope. For animal abuse or cruelty crimes in progress, call 911. To report non-emergency concerns, contact the Broward Sheriff’s Office at 954-765-4321 or your local law enforcement agency. Remember, anonymous calls can be placed with Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477 (TIPS) or toll free at 1-866-493-8477.

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