Saginaw County coalition works together to improve animal abuse prosecution

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (12/15/2017) - Many times, prosecuting people who commit animal abuse crimes can be limited.

Saginaw County has unleashed a new initiative to improve the investigation and prosecution of the cases, bringing people to justice.

The county has seen 1,800 cases of animal abuse and neglect since 2005, but only 10 people ever faced criminal charges -- less than 0.1 percent of the cases.

"That's not very many. And half of those cases happened over the last year," said Saginaw County Animal Control Director Lisa Stoffel.

The newly formed Saginaw County Animal Cruelty Coaltion brings together animal control, police agencies and the prosecutor's office to investigate and then prosecute animal cruelty and neglect cases.

Stoffel talked about one dog's case during a press conference Friday. He was found abandoned for an undetermined amount of time.

"He was in an abandoned building, secured, so he wasn't able to get access to food or water," Stoffel said. "This is the kind of thing we want to stop."

With this coalition, animal control officers will have access to police reports and the prosecutor's office to find out more about potential suspects and determine what criminal charges are applicable.

"Before, we didn't have all that information," said Animal Control Investigator Tricia Barnes. "We didn't have the pairing and it was hard to prosecute anyone."

Another goal of the coalition is to inform people of what constitutes animal abuse or neglect.

"There are a lot of animals being abused out there that people don't know and don't know what abuse is," said Animal Control Investigator Joaquin Guerrero.

Barnes said educating pet owners can help them understand how their behavior is bad for their animals and how they can do better.

Stoffel said it's important to investigate animal crimes, because that type of abuse can lead to crimes against people.

"Animal abuse, oftentimes there are children involved, there is domestic violence," she said.

The coalition has been in place for a few months already, netting nine convictions in 10 cases.

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