11 Apr Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week
15 Years Of Protecting Georgia’s Pets: Officer Joey Brooks
On March 14th, 2017, Office Joey Brooks received the “Advocate for Animals Award” presented by Claudine
Wilkins J.D at Animal Law & Enforcement/Animal Shelter Symposium in Atlanta. The Advocate for Animals Award is given to outstanding organizations and individuals who show compassion, courage, and a desire to help animals and their community. Cindy Wiemann of Gwinnett Animal Shelter, who nominated him, says,“Officer Brooks calm and sometimes funny personality is a great asset in his investigative work. He has a way of making people feel comfortable talking to him… his greatest contributions have been his many years of consistently prosecuting animal abusers and improving the lives of the animals who survived abuse.”
What is your role as an Animal Cruelty Investigator for Gwinnett County?
I respond to calls where citizens make complaints about animals being abused. Complaints can be made from citizens, veterinarians, or 911 calls. I investigate approximately 300 to 400 cases per year with 100 or more
brought up on charges.
Are there any trends you have seen in Georgia that people should be aware of?
We are seeing more elder abuse where animals are being left with older people in terrible conditions. We are also seeing an increase in juvenile animal abuse cases. The statistics say that if a person abuses an animal that they will eventually escalate to adults. I’ve seen it firsthand doing this job, one leads to another.
How can veterinarians help in the fight against animal abuse?
The most important thing is to make sure you have a relationship with your local animal control. I have been in this position for over 15 years and I have never once seen a veterinarian sued for reporting abuse so don’t be afraid to contact law enforcement if you have a suspicion. Note: Georgia law grants immunity to veterinarians. Understand what is best for the animal is also what is best for the people involved. There are many domestic situations where a person is being abused as well as the animal. We also see hoarding situations where animals, children, and the disabled are all living in deplorable conditions.
What can veterinarians do in terms of documentation to increase the likelihood of a case getting prosecuted?
Proper documentation, especially photographs, are key. Make sure to write notes that can be easily read and understood by judges, lawyers, and juries. Pay attention the person who is bringing the animal in. Ask questions like, “how did this injury happen?” and “do you have other animals?” Pay attention to what the kids say as well; I have found out over the years that a lot of times the children will tell you more about the situation then the adults.
How Do I Report an Abused or Neglected Animal?
You should be able to provide the following information to the local Animal Control or Sheriffs Department.
Witness: The name, address and telephone number of the person who witnessed the alleged incident.
Who: An accurate identity of the alleged perpetrator, if known, including name, address and telephone number, if possible and known associates or co-participants in the alleged criminal activity.
What and How: An accurate and exact description of the incident witnessed, pertinent conversations with the alleged perpetrator, eyewitness accounts, and photos. Written documents or reports that verify conditions (i.e., veterinary examination findings).
When: The date(s) and time(s) of the incident(s).
Where: The specific location where the incident was witnessed (physical address and city, community or county), including directions.
This article appeared in the fall edition of the GA Vet, the GVMA’s quarterly magazine. Click here for more GA Vet articles.