Protecting Those That Can’t Protect Themselves

By Bethany Carlson

photo-3Benton County’s District Attorney John Haroldson was recently honored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund for his work in prosecuting animal welfare cases. Specifically, he was named one of the top 10 advocates for animal rights in the country for installing attorney Jake Kamins as a full-time animal welfare prosecutor throughout Oregon. In 2012, Kamins was similarly honored for animal rights work in Multnomah County. Haroldson funded the position through a grant from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and provided the Benton County DA’s office as a base for Kamins’ operations. 

Haroldson, who’s been working as a criminal prosecutor for 25 years, said, “The thing that you come to appreciate is the continuum that exists in types of criminal conduct, and how that continuum extends to how people treat animals.” He mentions domestic violence cases in which the violence widens to affect animals, and reports that they’ve seen a range of maltreatment of both livestock and pets, from neglect to animal hoarding to physical abuse. Haroldson continued, “With the work that Jake is doing, it’s really an opportunity to get a closer look at what these trends are. All of us are on an important learning curve of being more aware of the factors surrounding animal cruelty.”

Kamins is currently working on cases in Benton, Columbia, Crook, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Umatilla, and Yamhill counties. Haroldson emphasized the importance of Kamins’ role: “I think he’s doing a fantastic job. He’s a person who is all in—he’s very dedicated to advocating for protecting animals from cruelty. He’s very hard-working, very driven, and I think he’s a perfect fit for this position.”  

Haroldson continued, “He’s the one who’s having to cover territory all over the state, and he is really on the ball. He’s a key player in raising our awareness and educating us in terms of what we’re seeing statewide.” 

Asked what the hardest part of his job is, Haroldson replied, “You have animals that suffer as a result of cruelty. When you encounter an animal that’s in pretty dire straits, that tells a story of suffering that’s in some cases pretty drawn-out. I think that’s tough for anybody to look at.”

Haroldson also mentioned the rewards of seeing animals rehabilitated after being rescued from abuse. “One common aspect that is inextricably tied to justice is how we treat the weakest members of our society. Our pets and livestock are completely dependent on our care. They can’t call 911 and say, ‘Help, I’m in danger.’ It’s incumbent on us, if an animal is starving to death or living in squalid conditions, we need to be able to respond to that. If we don’t, no one will.”