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Animal abuse cases in Tulsa are hard to prove due to lack of resources and witnessing abuse, neglect

Posted at 1:59 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 08:27:13-05

When it comes to investigating, referring and prosecuting animal cruelty cases, it's simple - there's a shortage of resources.

"If they have to decide between taking an animal cruelty case and a murder case, they're performing the same triage as everybody else is and for them at times it's not as important," said Jean Letcher, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare, of the predicament the city finds itself in regarding animal abuse cases.

The Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter is funded by the city, and its lone investigator responds to more than 12,000 calls a year.

The Tulsa Police Department does not have an officer dedicated to animal control issues. Tulsa County Sheriff's Office has two.

"We've done a few investigations over the past couple years and we've only had a couple that we actually found enough that we couldn't correct the issue at our level," said Dakata Crase, animal control deputy with TCSO.

Finding the evidence and connecting the abuse to a human is tough.

"They're very difficult cases actually to investigate and they're difficult cases to prosecute because you're reliant upon somebody either actually witnessing the abuse or the neglect," said Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

Tulsa Animal Welfare responded to more than 650 calls in 2016, with three cases of animal cruelty turned over to the District Attorney's Office. Two of the three were accepted. The DA also received 12 referrals from other sources and approved eight of those.

"It's easy to look at an animal and say, 'Wow that's a really bad injury.' The question then comes, 'How do I connect that injury to a human being who inflicted it?,'" said Kunzweiler.

He also said if no witnesses come forward, it's hard to prove animal abuse. Along with witnesses, Tulsa needs money and manpower.

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