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Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit Gets Private Funding

BJ Austin

The Dallas County District Attorney’s new Animal Cruelty Unit is up and running thanks to nearly $200,000 in private donations.  That's the amount needed to operate the special prosecution unit for its first year.

The group Safer Dallas-Better Dallas organized the fundraising, and presented county commissioners with a check. First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris says the prosecution unit dedicated solely to animal cruelty sends a strong message that animal abuse will not be tolerated in Dallas County.

“We have a unit not to just talk the talk, but to do something about this problem," Harris told County Commissioners.

James Bias, President of the SPCA of Texas says the prosecutor and investigator assigned to the new unit will get special training on animal abuse and collecting evidence in cases where the victim cannot speak.     

Bias says this program is unique in Texas.

“Dallas County is only the second one that I know of that has initiated this type of unit," Bias said.  "Harris County down in Houston recently disbanded theirs for lack of funding. So, I think that we have shown here in North Texas that we have bigger hearts and certainly deeper pockets so that we can support this effort, not through taxpayer dollars, but through the community supporting this type of effort.”

Commissioner Elba Garcia expects the first year of the animal cruelty unit to yield persuasive data to add it to the county budget.  The first big case comes later this month. It’s the case of a four month old puppy set on fire at a southeast Dallas apartment complex.  The puppy named Justice later died. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.