Central Florida state attorney forms new animal cruelty task force

Bill Gladson’s task force covers Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties

TAVARES, Fla. – A state attorney is delivering justice with a new animal cruelty task force spanning across three Central Florida counties.

William “Bill” Gladson, of Florida’s fifth judicial circuit, said it was the passion of Assistant State Attorney Jamie McManus that pushed his office to start its new animal cruelty task force.

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“What this did was allowed us to create a specialized unit where the focus is going to be on training prosecutors and also training law enforcement and then learning from the law enforcement officers and the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and all the experts sharing that information and getting all that stuff together so everyone can become essentially subject matter experts,” Gladson said.

The task force’s training will focus on helping attorneys and law enforcement develop strong animal abuse cases to prosecute.

“All cases are different,” Gladson said. “Each one is unique. Some cases of course are better than others but with animals, you do have certain challenges particularly, of course, you often only have one side of the story, if anything at all.”

The task force spans five counties, including Lake, Marion and Sumter in Central Florida. It’s comprised of prosecutors, local law enforcement and the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Gladson said even though all of these groups have worked together in the past, the new animal cruelty task force helps share new ways of thinking.

“By combining the resources of the entire circuit into one task force, you know whether it’s training opportunities that weren’t available before or learning that there is a subject matter expert in this particular field you didn’t know existed,” Gladson said.

By putting more focus on animal abuse cases, Gladson said law enforcement may stumble upon other crimes.

“It could be that you’re talking to someone at the door and you realize that person has been the victim of a crime or it might be that you’re at the house and you realize there’s a stolen vehicle in front of the house and you wouldn’t have gotten called there if someone didn’t call in about the animal,” Gladson said.

He added his hope for the program is to raise awareness and make his team into better prosecutors.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.