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The SPCA of Texas has been a pillar of the North Texas community since 1938, and the organization is a regional and national leader in all aspects of animal welfare. The Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center and the Ellis County Animal Care Center are very visible symbols of the organization’s presence in the community, especially for pet adoptions, as the facilities are visited by thousands of patrons every year. Mobile adoption events also get a lot of attention with the colorful, customized vans that keep pups and cats comfortable while finding forever homes and bringing awareness of the organization’s various services in the process.
However, another pivotal SPCA of Texas program, the Animal Cruelty Investigations (ACI) Unit, can sometimes be less visible. This team stands ready to respond to complaints of animal neglect and abuse in the City of Dallas and in Hunt, Kaufman and Van Zandt Counties. The ACI Unit’s efforts didn’t stop during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of animals in need is still on the upswing. In 2021, the SPCA of Texas rescued 1,209 animals. All of this critical work is possible thanks to the generosity of donors.
Currently, the SPCA of Texas maintains a full-time staff of five professionals dedicated to investigating and prosecuting reports of animal cruelty. The Russell E. Dealey Animal Rescue Center supports this team’s work with a focused medical and behavioral care staff and well-equipped facilities geared specifically toward the rescue mission.
Three members of the team are investigators; highly trained in animal handling, legal aspects of animal care and are certified peace officers. They enhance the SPCA of Texas’ efforts to increase conviction rates for misdemeanor and felony animal cruelty charges in cases of hoarding, neglect, inhumane breeding operations and more. Notably, the team works with law enforcement and human service partners to provide resources, services and education that can also prevent cruelty before it occurs.
“This year, our Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit has seen the effects of two solid years of a global pandemic and the challenges that pet owners have had to face as a result of countless hardships such as loss of income, financial instability, and interruption to routine veterinary care,” said Courtney Burns, SPCA of Texas Chief Investigator, Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit and Sr. Director, Community Response.
Chief Investigator Courtney Burns inspects a small puppy removed from a horrific living environment in Ellis County. (SPCA of Texas)
“While the prosecution of animal cruelty remains a critical objective, our investigators have put a hard focus on the prevention of animal cruelty through early intervention, education, and improving the quality of life for pets in their homes. Our service to the community does not simply end with the enforcement of state laws that protect pets. We also invest our time with pet owners through collaboration with human-based social services to ensure a stable and healthy environment for all. Responsible pet ownership and the prevention of animal cruelty starts with the people, and that’s where you’ll find us.”
The ACI team works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement agencies and welfare organizations to act on behalf of the voiceless. And it is not always cats or dogs in these cases. The ACI Unit routinely brings in equine and livestock such as horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens and others. Throughout of the organization’s work, the SPCA of Texas has handled more than 500 species of animals.
On occasion the team is summoned outside its service area by special request of specific law-enforcement or governmental entities to assist in disaster cases, or to testify before legislative bodies.
Not only is this work critical to the SPCA of Texas’ mission to provide every animal exceptional care and a loving home, but it has also been a pillar of the organization for more than half a century.
While the original organizing of an animal welfare group in Dallas in 1888 specifically sought to, “stop the beating of animals, to stop dog fights, to stop the bleeding of calves, to stop the plucking of fowls, and the driving of galled and disabled animals,” the funds necessary to adequately address this issue on the ground have not always been available.
In 1971, the organization now known as the SPCA of Texas hired its first Director of Field Services. This one person investigated animal cruelty cases and conducted rescues in Dallas County and conducted educational programs throughout local elementary schools.
A second investigator was hired in 1990 when the organization sought to expand the program. In fact, it changed its name from the “Dallas SPCA” to the “SPCA of Texas” in October 1990 to reflect the expanded scope of the ACI Unit. Since then, the team has served many different counties depending on financial resources available in various decades.
Investigating reports of animal cruelty is one of the toughest but most vital parts of the SPCA of Texas’ mission. It is only because of the generosity of the North Texas community that the SPCA of Texas has been able to grow the ACI program into the rapid response team it is today.
Your critical support ensures that our ACI Unit is able to continue this important work. Donations made to the SPCA of Texas during the North Texas Giving Day season, beginning September 1, go even further to help animals in need throughout your community. Save the date now to be sure you don’t miss it!
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