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Conference Will Look at Animal Abuse, Link to Domestic Violence

Oct. 12, 2008 — The St. Croix Animal Welfare Center (AWC) will focus on some grim statistics at its Silent Witness Conference, coming up Oct. 24 at the Divi Carina Bay Conference Center on St. Croix.
An estimated 70 percent of pet owners who reported domestic violence in the home also reported violence against the family pet, according to the American Humane Association and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
A study by the association found that violence is used against companion animals — injuring, maiming or killing the family pet — as revenge.
"There is the understanding that cruelty to animals is linked to domestic abuse," said Moises Carmona, head warden at AWC. "Law-enforcement officers can gain knowledge from the conference to help us prosecute offenders."
The conference is expected to attract territory leaders, policy makers, law-enforcement officials and members of the animal welfare community. The conference is open to the public.
"It is important that we all work together to protect animals," Carmona said.
Featured guest lecturers include Dr. Phil Arkow of the American Humane Association, who specializes in the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty; prosecuting attorney Allie Phillips of the American Humane Association, who will speak on investigating and trying animal-cruelty cases; and William Fielding, researcher with the College of the Bahamas, who has published case studies on the correlation between violence against animals and people in the Bahamas.
St. Croix Administrator Pedro Encarnacion will speak to open the conference. The Silent Witness conference will conclude with a special territorial leadership panel moderated by Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
In addition to Carmona, panel members will include Deputy Chief Raphael Bramble of the V.I. Police Department, Attorney General Vincent Frazer, Mike Evans of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mary Mingus of the Women's Coalition, a representative of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, and Dr. Stacia Boswell, executive director and staff veterinarian for the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center.
"This conference is deemed Silent Witness because animals see abuse and are overwhelmingly victims of family abuse, and this type of violence is against the law and should not be tolerated in the territory," Boswell said. "The St. Croix AWC is thrilled to have the opportunity to work directly with law enforcement and territory leaders on this issue."
She is encouraged by the response and reservations from the V.I. attorney general's office and the Department of Agriculture.
The conference will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24 and costs $30, which includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon coffee. Although payment may be made on arrival, preregistration is required. To register, email or call 778-1650. More information and online registration is at StCroixAWC.org.
Founded in 1973, the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center promotes the humane treatment of in the St. Croix community through education, encouragement, and enforcement.
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