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APD Animal Cruelty Unit down to one detective

Thursday, August 12, 2021 by Amy Smith

The Animal Advisory Commission may be philosophically divided on some issues, but commissioners were united Monday in calling for the restoration of recent staffing cuts made to the Austin Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Unit.

Responding to queries from the Austin Animal Center and Commission Chair Craig Nazor, APD Det. Tim Diven confirmed in early August that he is the only detective remaining in the unit while a second detective had been directed to a position in one of APD’s violent crimes units. That leaves just one detective and one civilian specialist handling all animal cruelty cases, which, according to Diven, APD considers property crimes.

It’s uncertain if APD will continue operating the unit. “They’ve indicated that disbanding the entire unit is still on the table but much further down the road,” Diven wrote.

With its vote, the commission is asking City Council to ensure that funding for a second detective is returned to the unit as part of the ongoing budget process.

Several studies over the years have pointed to a direct link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. According to the Humane Society of the United States, people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against domestic partners, children and others.

Drawing from the findings of a six-year study conducted in 11 metropolitan cities, the HSUS notes that animal abuse is one of four predictors of domestic partner violence. “Researchers have found that between 71 and 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet.”

In Texas, animal cruelty is a felony, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail.

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