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Here's How We Stop The Worst Crimes Against Our Pets

<p> CC Cameron Bennett </p>

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is dedicated to pursuing justice for animals through our nation's legal system. Last week ALDF released a list of the top five animal-related crimes prosecuted in the US.

Though details of the laws vary from state to state, animal cruelty is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and these crimes can include felony charges.

The most commonly prosecuted crimes are:

1. Neglect.

The failure to provide basic care required for an animal to thrive, leading to suffering that results in permanent injury or death. Most commonly dogs and cats, followed by horses. Hoarding, puppy mills, and livestock neglect fall into this category.

2. Affirmative acts of abuse.

Intentionally injuring or killing an animal. Includes beating, poisoning, torture, and setting animals on fire. Affirmative acts of abuse also include cases of domestic violence, when abusing animals is part of the offender's system of maintaining power and control over the human victim.

3. Animal fighting.

A contest in which people cause two animals to fight for the purpose of human entertainment. The most common forms in the US are dogfighting and cockfighting. Animal fighting is regularly accompanied by other crimes, including gambling, money laundering, weapons offenses, and conspiracy.

4. Abandonment.

When an animal is deliberately cast off by its owner. There has been a significant spike in these cases in recent years because of the number of people who lost their jobs and then their homes due to the economy.

5. Bestiality.

Taboo as a subject to be sure, sexual crimes against animals are not exceptional, isolated incidents. The case facts run a wide range- from individual animals assaulted by their owners in their homes to organized bestiality events held at clandestine, often rural locations. The ugly reality is that bestiality is not yet expressly illegal in all 50 states.

Making the law work for animals.

Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys are sponsoring the fifth Annual National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference, Nov. 4 to 6, in Pittsburgh, PA. The conference includes three days of law enforcement-specific training to help police, animal control officers and prosecutors from across the nation secure justice for these voiceless victims.

What you can do.

Animal Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to ensuring that more animal cruelty cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Now you can help bring animal abusers to justice.

It can be disturbing - and heartbreaking - to witness animal cruelty. Whether it be an acute act of violence or chronic neglect, ALDF offers useful suggestions on what to do in a variety of situations on our website, from seeing animals in substandard conditions in a pet store or your local shelter to helping a neglected animal.

ALDF also offers a mobile app.