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Award brings attention to animal, domestic abuse

Teamwork and speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves has brought loud and clear recognition for the Washington County Animal Protection Multi-Disciplinary Team.

On June 13, the team earned the prestigious Cameron Award from Vision Action Network, an organization that recognizes those who collaborate to make their communities stronger.

“People are understanding that animal problems are people problems,” said Deborah Wood, co-chair of the team and manager of Washington County Animal Services. “That means so much to us because when people understand the bigger picture, things get done.”

Four years ago, Washington County Animal Services, the Beaverton and Hillsboro police departments, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon Department of Human Services, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office and the Domestic Violence Resource Center began coordinating their investigations. Working together, the team prosecuted 20 different crimes against animals last year.

“We’ve had a 100 percent conviction rate, with more than half (of those convicted) spending time in jail,” said Wood. “That’s extraordinary; unparalleled.”

One of the reasons these groups have collaborated is to address the link between animal abuse and other violence, including domestic violence and child abuse. Police officers are being trained by the Humane Society to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect of animals while investigating other crimes. More often than not, law enforcement officers will notice these signs on domestic abuse calls.

Standard operating procedures are being put into place regarding crimes against animals. If an officer suspects abuse or neglect, the animal is taken to Dr. Allison Lamb, a veterinarian. She works from physical evidence to build a case.

“We are all a team, and it’s our job to protect the animals,” said Wood. “There’s a whole county-wide commitment.”

Monika’s House, a shelter for domestic abuse victims, is the only shelter in Washington County that opens its doors to victims as well as their pets. The Washington Country Animal Protection Multi-Disciplinary Team works directly with Monika’s House, which has been pet-friendly for almost three years.

Valerie Bundy, Monika’s House program manager, said the multi-disciplinary team was able to create five kennels on the property so abuse victims can come with their pets even if those pets aren’t service animals.

“It’s very common to see abused pets come with abused people,” Bundy explained. “And pets are very therapeutic.”

The Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter is also involved with the team. If victims of domestic abuse are not staying at Monika’s House and do not have a place to keep their animal, the shelter will open up its services. The animal shelter has provided more than 300 nights of housing for animals since the team’s creation.

“No animal left behind,” said Wood.

Sharon Brown, the domestic violence coordinator for the Hillsboro Police Department, said there has been more cooperation between law enforcement agencies lately.

“Domestic violence against people and animals tend to go together,” she said. “Police are looking at this issue more comprehensively.”

“We are talking about a problem and we are doing something about it,” added Wood. “It’s one of the most exciting transformations I’ve seen happen within a county. If you’re an animal in trouble, you want to live in Washington County.”



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