Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
The Dallas County District Attorney received a $200,000 gift to open an animal cruelty unit which will focus strictly on crimes involving animals.
Animals will no longer have to compete with people for case attention at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.
County commissioners on Tuesday accepted a $200,000 gift from the organization Safer Dallas to fund an animal cruelty unit that will strictly focus on cases involving harm to animals.
"We at the DA's office are excited and eager," First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris said. "We're going to come down, and you and people need to know that you will be prosecuted."
Animal advocate Jonnie England, who has participated in several high-profile cruelty cases in the past, praised the special unit.
"I think we'll see more cases being prosecuted and more swiftly," she said.
Animal activists say the unit may help people, too, because animal abusers are also more likely to commit violence against humans.
"It's just a vicious cycle, and we really need to send a message about this and educate the public why it is important," England said.
The unit will include one prosecutor and one investigator. Outside investigators with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will work with the unit, too.
"These animals can't testify," said James Bias, SPCA of Texas president. "You can't put this puppy on the stand and tell me what happened, so we have to look for specialized evidence. They're going to know how to prosecute the criminal cases."
The donation will supply one year of funding for the animal cruelty unit, but county commissioners said they are committed to keeping it going.