(originally published By Brandon Formby – dallasnews.com)

Dallas County officials will be presented with almost $200,000 on Tuesday to fund what is believed to be the first animal cruelty prosecution unit in North Texas.
The two-person unit, which focuses on crimes against animals, began operating earlier this year. Safer Dallas Better Dallas, a law enforcement support organization, raised $199,703 to fund the unit’s first year of operations. The unit’s first major trial, which stems from the fatal burning of a dog nicknamed Justice, will begin March 18.

“Instead of the cases being randomly assigned to different courts, they’ll all be assigned to our unit,” said David Alex, trial bureau chief for the district attorney’s office. “There won’t be cases falling through the cracks being handled by people who don’t have the training we’ve gone through.”

Officials hope the county will fund the two positions after they see how effective the first year of operations is.

“We’re going to have the data,” said Commissioner Elba Garcia.

Animal rights activists and legal experts say that although animal cruelty prosecution units are rare, they are starting to be created with more frequency.
Charles Terrell, chairman of Safer Dallas Better Dallas, wants the unit’s existence to send a message to residents.

“I’m hoping that it will show them that there’s a punishment associated with it,” Terrell said.

Alex said publicity about the unit has already prompted phone calls from residents offering tips about animal cruelty cases they’ve seen. While he’s glad residents are on board, he said they should still report animal crimes to police and not prosecutors.

Terrell and Garcia said community support for the unit is evident by the money raised in a matter of weeks.
“It signals that people care about these issues and they want to be involved,” Garcia said.