Animal cruelty crimes are often unprosecuted in Oregon because, for the majority of the state’s District Attorneys, budgets have been cut so severely that these cases are simply not getting to court. But a new grant to fund prosecution will change all that.
In a move that will benefit Oregon’s animals and 36 elected District Attorneys, Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson has secured a three-year grant from the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to fund a full-time prosecutor, whose sole responsibility is to litigate animal cruelty cases.
The Benton County DA in Corvallis will provide the home base for the project, and serve as its fiscal agent. Once retained, a dedicated animal cruelty prosecutor will be eligible for appointment as a special Deputy District Attorney by any elected District Attorney who needs an animal cruelty case handled. Because of the grant, the attorney’s time will be covered by the award. Haroldson said he will have the position filled by the end of April.
Oregon’s Legislature has consistently articulated a strong public policy favoring the aggressive prosecution of animal cruelty cases. Oregonians want police officers to make arrests in cases of animal abuse and to pay for and provide care to victim animals. However, furlough days, reduced court hours, and cuts in corrections spending have limited the ability of the state to prosecute.
“This new statewide prosecutor will handle every type of animal cruelty case—from juvenile offenders who kill a neighbor’s cat to organized dogfighting rings and subsequent racketeering prosecutions,” said John Haroldson. “There is now no reason why any viable animal cruelty case should go unprosecuted in Oregon.”
“When we began this process, I had one goal in mind—to ensure that animal cruelty cases are not among the growing list of crimes that go unprosecuted in Oregon,” said Scott Heiser, a former elected Oregon prosecutor and current director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. “This grant is a huge step forward in Oregon and this project will serve as a model to implement in other states.”