New animal cruelty policy in Harris Co. D.A.’s office concerns some

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by Brad Woodard / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 11:42 PM

HARRIS COUNTY -- For the past four years, prosecutor Belinda Smith has headed a special unit in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office that solely focused on animal cruelty cases. But now, under Mike Anderson’s new regime, that unit has been dismantled, and she’s been transferred to a newly formed special victim’s bureau.

“The commitment is still there,” said Lisa Porter, the division chief of family law, which oversees the bureau. “I love animals.”

She says the move was intended to ramp up the prosecution of animal cruelty cases.

“The goal is to cross train and have more prosecutors doing it. That’s really the goal,” said Porter.

It’s something critics say makes no sense, in light of the fact that prosecutors rotate in and out of the bureau every three to six months. With that, Porter told KHOU 11 News that Smith won’t be prosecuting animal cruelty cases full-time.

“She needs to be doing it full-time,” said Sherry Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Humane Society. “If they’re going to add to her case load, she is not going to be able to handle what she’s handling now.”

Let alone cross training other prosecutor, she said.

“We already have people who are well trained,” said Ferguson, “very well trained. So why reinvent the wheel?”

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