Police fill gap in authority for animal cruelty cases

DOVER — Until legislation updates the Delaware Code, the fledgling Office of Animal Welfare will coordinate with law enforcement when making arrests for animal cruelty.

Currently, the office’s constables do not have arrest powers.

However, a partnership with state and local law enforcement has filled the gap in authority, officials said.

“Once our constables receive a complaint and validate the complaint, they work closely with the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the area to initiate the full investigation and make necessary arrests,” said Andrea Wojcik, spokesperson for the Division of Public Health.

“The Delaware Animal Services constable continues to assist the law enforcement agency and provides all animal handling, transportation and sheltering. The animal-services constable also may serve as a witness in the case.

“The process is working well and we continue to be grateful for state and local law enforcement support,” she added.

Public Health reported animal services has received 61 animal cruelty complaints since Sept. 15; 25 cases have been concluded and 36 remain under investigation.

Delaware Animal Services officers have a total of 94 years of law enforcement experience combined, Ms. Wojcik said.

Currently, Chester County (Pa.) SPCA is contracted to address animal control reports in Kent County and in the city of Wilmington.

Officers of the First State Animal Center in Camden handle New Castle and Sussex counties until Dec. 31. They also have arrest powers.

Beginning in January, the Office of Animal Welfare will begin working with legislators “to further update the Delaware Code to remove enforcement authority from the SPCAs and further define the enforcement powers of the Delaware Animal Services Team,” Ms. Wojcik said.

Regarding rabies control, Title 3, Chapter 82 of Delaware law authorizes Department of Health and Social Services’ agents enforcement power. As an enforcement agency, Animal Services is permitted to issue violations. Officers managing a case will issue violation notices.

The Office of Animal Welfare Delaware Animal Services manages all complaints concerning human exposures to rabies and animal cruelty. This includes rabies control laws, issuance of quarantine orders, and investigation of potential animal cruelty complaints, Ms. Wojcik said.

Residents who suspect cases of animal cruelty should report their concerns to Delaware Animal Services at (302) 255-4646.

Suspected human exposure to rabies reports can be called into Division of Public Health’s rabies hotline at (866) 972-9705 or Delaware Animal Services at (302) 255-4646.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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