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SOS working toward breaking cycle of animal, human violence


SOS working toward breaking cycle of animal, human violence
Style Weekly's article "Breaking the Chain" Metro, May 16 brought to attention the important link between animal and human violence.

However, the report failed to include the extensive campaign long under way in the Richmond area addressing this issue.

At the request of Save Our Shelters (SOS), Gov. Jim Gilmore recognized March 2000 as Animal Violence Awareness Month throughout the commonwealth. SOS engaged Richmond City Council and the boards of supervisors for Chesterfield and Henrico counties to issue resolutions proclaiming a monthlong observance of this serious issue.

Citizens appeared before those governing bodies during the March observance and spoke poignantly of their experiences with forms of animal violence.

Next year SOS plans to take these observances nationwide. As part of the Animal/Human Violence Awareness initiative, SOS volunteers conducted educational programs on the subject in Central Virginia school systems and presentations were made to civic associations and neighborhood groups throughout the area. SOS volunteers set up an animal violence hotline and produced signs displayed on GRTC busses illustrating the link in violence. Generous supporters underwrote all costs. Public service announcements were created and produced free of charge by Tom Wright of Glyndon Studios and aired on network television.

The Richmond Police Department team working on cases of animal violence was the result of exhaustive efforts by this organization to have the department understand the magnitude and seriousness of the issue that they had traditionally brushed aside as "just an animal issue."

Finally, the article incorrectly stated that no dog fighting convictions had been made to date. Just last month, the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney's Office succeeded in winning two convictions. I was present during the trial, and impressed by the aggressiveness shown by the commonwealth attorneys.

Much credit is owed to Richmond Commonwealth Attorney David Hicks for understanding the complexities of the problem and a willingness to commit the resources of his office to tackling them. Violence is a circle that can be broken. When enlightened law enforcement and prosecutors understand that the earlier it is detected, the sooner the circle can be split, the safer our community will be — for all inhabitants.
—Jeanne Bridgforth, president
Save Our Shelters

Editor's note: At the time of the May 10 conference, the Richmond Police Department reported no dog fighting convictions in Richmond. By presstime for the May 16 issue, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office had not confirmed any dog fighting convictions.

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