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Pet owners and animal lovers in Lake County, Indiana will have a chance soon to help law enforcement fight animal cruelty and neglect in their communities.

Det. Michelle Weaver of the county Sheriff’s Office wants to form a civilian auxiliary to the sheriff’s Animal Cruelty Task Force. While the task force investigates and arrests animal abusers, civilians can undertake tasks that include providing foster homes, putting up posters for lost pets and passing out literature.

The help is desperately needed. So far, the task force consists solely of Weaver. She’s working to add other detectives, police officers and prosecutors to it.

 “We want at least one officer from every jurisdiction who could dedicate at least a portion of their time to this,” she said. “I’ve been the person who does it for our agency for the past eight years, but it’s a much bigger problem than one person can tackle.”

In north Lake County, dog fighting is rampant, she said. In south Lake County, cock fighting has burgeoned as more immigrants arrive from Mexico, where it’s legal.

The task force began March 4 with the case of Vicki Moon, 62, of Lowell, after officials entered her home and waded through animal feces more than a foot deep. They rescued 17 dogs and retrieved 18 dead dogs and three cats. Their bodies were found in a freezer. Horrible as that is, the case is not unusual.

“I could do 10 of these today, but we don’t have the resources,” said Weaver. “We just don’t have enough bodies.”

Her quest to add more people from law enforcement won’t be easy. “A lot of officers scoff at those crimes. There are people even in my profession who think, ‘Why are you wasting your time? It’s a dog.’”

But Weaver has seen the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. “Eighty percent of the time, if the dog was being beaten, the kids and mom were also,” she said.

Weaver is hoping that veterinarians, rescue groups and shelter organizations will be among those offering to help the auxiliary. When she announces the time and place for its first meeting, you’ll read about it here.

Meanwhile, there are two things you can do now. One is to call your local police department and tell the chief you want someone on the force to join Weaver’s animal cruelty task force. The other is to keep your eyes and ears open for signs of animal abuse and neglect, then report it to Weaver. She can be reached at 219-755-3346 or at mweaver@lakecountysheriff.org

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