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Ocala
Monday, April 15, 2024

Fifth Judicial Circuit expands task force to combat animal cruelty

The Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday that its Animal Task Force has expanded to better combat animal cruelty and enhance animal welfare.

In a press release, the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office stated that the Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office is joining its Animal Cruelty Task Force. Through the consolidation of resources, expertise, and jurisdictional reach, this newly expanded task force will focus on investigating, prosecuting, and preventing instances of animal abuse and neglect.

Expanded Animal Cruelty Task Force (Photo by Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office)
Members of the newly expanded Animal Cruelty Task Force. (Photo: Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office)

“This strategic alliance represents a significant step forward in ensuring the protection and advocacy of animals within our communities,” stated the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office in the press release.

Located in the “heart of central Florida,” the Fifth Judicial Circuit is comprised of Marion, Citrus, Lake, Sumter, and Hernando Counties, with the main administrative offices in Ocala. The Ninth Judicial Circuit includes Orange and Osceola Counties.

Bill Gladson, Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney, highlighted that this collaboration will provide the task force with additional resources to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable while also promoting education and awareness to prevent the mistreatment of animals.

“Animal cruelty is a serious offense that demands a concerted effort to address effectively,” said Gladson.

The Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office formed its task force in 2022 to ensure that animals are protected from harm and that their welfare is upheld. The task force is comprised of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, veterinarians and animal welfare experts.

In 2016, the Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office established an animal cruelty unit within its office for the same purpose.

“We advocate for and seek justice for all victims and that includes innocent animals,” stated Andrew Bain, State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. “While the Ninth Circuit’s existing animal cruelty unit has done great work prosecuting offenders since it started in 2016, this new partnership will allow us to expand our access to more resources and specialized knowledge to help us build even stronger animal cruelty cases which are often complex.”

The expanded task force will utilize a multidisciplinary approach by leveraging the expertise of law enforcement agencies, animal welfare organizations, veterinary professionals, and legal experts to address the complex issues surrounding animal cruelty.

In addition to investigating and prosecuting cases of animal cruelty, the task force will prioritize outreach and education initiatives to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership, humane treatment practices, and the legal consequences of animal abuse.

The task force will engage with communities, schools, and advocacy groups in an effort to foster a culture of empathy and respect toward all living beings.

“As the expanded task force begins its operations, both offices invite collaboration and support from stakeholders across the region,” stated the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. “Together, we can strive towards a future where every animal is treated with the dignity, compassion and respect they deserve.”