Learning to handle animal cruelty cases

Humane Society International

  • El Salvador. Tania Grande

  • Costa Rica. Amanda Chaves

In light of historic animal protection measures passed recently by the governments of El Salvador and Costa Rica, Humane Society International/Latin America orchestrated a set of workshops on how to deal with cases involving animals in the two countries, with the goal of improving implementation of the new laws.

El Salvador

In El Salvador, the provisions of the Law for the Protection and Promotion of Companion Animal Welfare include:

  • the launch of a national policy for the protection of companion animals,
  • the promotion of preventative education through the national education system, and
  • a total ban on dogfighting.

The law also establishes mechanisms for the supervision and regulation of animal shelters and animal breeders, as well as for the use of companion animals for research.

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In an effort to help cities comply with the legislation and increase the number of cruelty cases solved, HSI staff provided training to 150 public officials from eight municipalities and the National Police on how to look for signs of a problem—such as the physical condition of an animal and the state of the property—and properly collect evidence. Facilitators also taught that animal abuse often leads to other criminal activities, like drug trafficking and domestic violence.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, 56 officials from various government agencies overseeing health, agriculture, security and justice took part in workshops on investigation of dogfighting and other cruelty cases, mass confiscation of animals and the proper treatment of seized animals.

Over the past five years, HSI has provided training for more than 350 Costa Rican police officers and government representatives — but these officials now have an even bigger role to play in the investigation and handling of animal cruelty cases thanks to the recently passed Animal Welfare Law 9458. The law reforms the country’s penal code, thereby sanctioning animal cruelty, including dogfighting, with jail time –which will hopefully cause people to think twice before doing harm. It also allows the judicial system to gather a database of those who break the law against cruelty and allows the government to start gathering data on crimes related to animal welfare.


The trainees will now return to their jobs better able to identify when animals have been used in fights, to act when animals are found in danger and to coordinate with the appropriate institution for the rescue of animals in bad situations. By request, two more workshops have been scheduled for later this year, to focus on animal handling. Give now to help.