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A Year in Ukraine – Preventing Animal Cruelty

Animal crimes rarely exist in a vacuum; they are often intertwined with violence against humans, yet by dealing with animal cruelty professionally, that cycle can be broken. This cycle is often known as ‘The Link’ and was developed initially at FBI Headquarters in relation to serial killers, many of whom start life abusing animals. 

However, outside of the USA, there have been only a few Police Training Programmes on ‘The Link’, and rarely anything as innovative as what was to happen in Ukraine, only made possible by the supporters of Naturewatch Foundation.
Their previous stray animal work in Ukraine enabled initial conversations to begin with senior Patrol Police to establish whether they would be open to their officers receiving training on dealing with animal cruelty, and the various links to other crime.
In October 2017, I met with the Municipality, the Police, and Naturewatch Foundation in Kyiv. My background as a Senior Police Detective was mostly with undercover investigative work and partnership working in relation to counter terrorism and serious crime. The new Ukrainian Patrol Police showed willingness to allow a pilot training session in Kyiv where we would also train the Municipality and animal NGOs, which is crucial to advancing an essential understanding of each other’s perspective.
The teaching highlighted how dealing with reported animal cruelty cases will not only impact on community confidence but also reduce crimes such as domestic violence and child abuse.

Studies show that 76% of animal abusers are also responsible for crimes against humans, and this was a key thread – also focusing on how to prevent both people and animals becoming victims of the ‘cycle’.  Mostly the instruction was through practical policing case studies from around the world, including a horrific case of the serial killing of stray animals in Ukraine that led to the serial killing of people; by children. 

Police officers everywhere prefer to talk practically, rather than theoretically, and the training session ended with an exercise involving the deliberate poisoning of a dog (a toy stooge named ‘Sherlock’) by a woman who was also slowly poisoning her husband. The cops loved it and were sold on the training. The Municipality were quite interested, and the animal groups really welcomed some new tools in understanding how to negotiate reporting cases to the Police to achieve the best outcome for abused animals.
Overall there was very positive feedback, and further conversations then took place, both through Naturewatch Foundation in Ukraine and directly police to ex-police. The outcome of this dialogue was that the word spread through the Patrol Police in Ukraine and thirteen (13) cities are now asking for this training.  In addition, upon request of the Kyiv Police, Naturewatch Foundation conducted a training day on the handling and control of aggressive dogs.  

It is worth noting here that word was also spreading around the world about what was happening in Ukraine, and countries that had previously been involved in this ‘link’ work across the USA and Europe were starting to notice.  The Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko voiced his support, articles were carried in English 'K9 magazine' and on Vice news in Greece. Through contacts, we managed to secure an appearance on National TV in Ukraine and in the National Vesti newspaper, on Kyiv radio and in podcasts in the UK.
So, fast forward to September 2018, and the training was taken to police and NGOs in Mykolaiv, a city in the South East. Thirty-three officers of all ranks attended the police training and these officers, plus the others in Kyiv are now cascading their new knowledge to well over 2000 officers across the country.  

But that is not all.  A criminal has been charged for the FIRST TIME in Odessa under Article 299 (propaganda of cruelty), and an elusive ‘dog hunter’ was sent to prison awaiting trial.  Also, articles regularly appear on police social media showing they have fully grasped the need to investigate animal cruelty, and recognise it as an important community issue.
Unsolicited feedback is always a pleasure to receive, and I have been sent two personal messages recently. “Thank you very much, Mark; your training was beautiful and very relevant. Mykolaiv thanks you” and “It’s incredible the changes that have happened over the last three months after your visiting Kyiv. I think what you are doing is highly important!”
None of this could have been done without the Naturewatch Foundation supporters!

There is still so much to do, Ukraine’s response to animal cruelty is still relatively poor.  However, it is very clear that change has happened, and this will have been a pivotal year in the attitude towards animals.  Personally, I would like to thank every supporter, both from myself and from the Patrol Police of Ukraine.

by Mark Randell (Hidden-in-Sight working in the partnership with the Naturewatch Foundation)