With Canada's first animal cruelty unit, Edmonton police aim to curtail other criminal behaviour

·2 min read
Puppy mills are among the types of animal abuse to be investigated by the new Edmonton police unit. These Havanese puppies were among 72 seized in 2019 from an alleged Edmonton puppy mill. (Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society - image credit)
Puppy mills are among the types of animal abuse to be investigated by the new Edmonton police unit. These Havanese puppies were among 72 seized in 2019 from an alleged Edmonton puppy mill. (Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society - image credit)

With a known link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence, the Edmonton Police Service has formed Canada's first investigation unit dedicated to abusive behaviour toward pets and domestic animals.

"Research has shown there in an unequivocal link between animal cruelty, domestic violence, child and elder abuse investigations," said Staff Sgt. Anna Sinclair in a news release on Tuesday.

"Offenders who abuse animals are likely to commit other violent crimes causing harm to persons and society in general."

The Animal Cruelty Investigation Unit (ACIU) will be headed up by two officers who have spent recent years learning about animal cruelty issues and investigations, then training other EPS members about animal cruelty investigations and the link to broader criminal behaviour.

EPS investigated more than 400 incidents of animal cruelty last year, ranging from severe neglect and starvation to physical abuse, puppy mills and bestiality.

In 2017, there were about 270 animal abuse investigations.

A description of the unit on the EPS website notes that the other violence linked to animal cruelty can include homicide, sexual assault, arson, family violence and child abuse.

"These investigations are most always linked to other criminal activities that target human beings, whether it be domestic violence in the home, firearm offences, drugs, frauds," said Const. Ilka Cunningham, a patrol officer who, along with partner Const. Ted Dyck, has paid extra attention to animal abuse investigations in recent years.

"Individuals running puppy mills have been preying on families, often selling sick and malnourished puppies for thousands of dollars to families anxiously looking to purchase a puppy during the pandemic."

In mid-2019, the Alberta government gave veterinarians a mandate to report suspected animal abuse, prompting the Edmonton Association of Small Animal Veterinarians to start online petition calling on city police to create a dedicated unit.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting