THE BIRD THEFT VICTIM AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
ROBBERY is a crime committed against a person, and is considered an act of violence to that person, usually life threatening. This is a very serious crime by law.
BURGLARY is a crime committed against the property of a victim. This crime is not as serious because no HUMAN life has been threatened. Most bird thefts are burglaries, committed against properties of people who are absent from the actual scene. Birds are property whether we derive livelihoods from them or consider them family members.
REPORTING A THEFT
THESE ARE IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- TOUCH NOTHING if you are reporting a burglary. Evidence must be secured if it is to be gathered and used later by the courts to prosecute criminals. Depending on the degree and location of the crime, law enforcement will determine at the scene if fingerprints are to be taken. Insist that police take fingerprints.
- DEATH may have occurred with human life or with the life of a beloved pet whether it be bird or dog. If birds are injured and in need of medical attention, a veterinarian should be called to the scene to stabilize birds.
- SHOCK will be the first thing that will overcome a victim.
- DETAILS and all information prior to and after your theft may be THE ONLY LEADS Law Enforcement will have throughout out the entire case to be able to solve your crime.
- A QUICK "ON THE SPOT" EDUCATION for officers at your scene is a must. Police are not aware of most things concerning birds and will not know what an Amazon or a Cockatoo is, or the monetary value and/or livelihood or businesses that are derived from birds.
The first responding police officer at the scene does not take prints. If prints are taken, crime scene detectives will be sent - sometimes as long as six hours later.
Agricultural Patrol or Farm Bureau Agencies concerning "agricultural businesses" (such as bird breeding farms) may be requested by owners. These agencies may be better equipped to handle fingerprinting of farm property, etc.
THE VICTIM'S ROLE
KEEPING COMPOSURE is critical in order to insure that all is done by having evidence documented according to the law. If details of the theft are not given immediately, due to shock, etc., information can be added to your theft report at a later date.
BIRDS or dogs left behind that are dead, injured or bloodied should be displayed as evidence and documented with police. This may have to be done more than once to assure that all divisions of Law Enforcement have been informed and made aware that ANIMAL CRUELTY has taken place.
VIDEO and/or STILL PHOTOS should be taken as soon as possible, either by owners, veterinarians, etc., documenting death and that cruelty has occurred. This may be used later in court or for insurance purposes.
DETAILED INVENTORY should be taken as soon as possible, in order to start a networking process, insurance claims, etc. Birds that are stolen have been recovered in as little as three days.
RELATED CRIMES: Law enforcement should be informed of similar thefts of birds occurring in other areas, jurisdictions or counties. This may help to determine if your crime is organized or random.
LACK OF EVIDENCE, INFORMATION AND SOLID LEADS may cause thieves not to be caught, and birds not to be recovered. The fact that stolen property (the birds) is not marked for identification purposes, have left bird theft cases LESS PRIORITIZED by Law Enforcement. While your crime is important to you, detectives must work other unrelated cases that have leads and suspects
THIEVES DON'T TELL. Thieves who are caught, arrested, and charged with bird theft do not typically reveal where large amounts of birds are being kept, or who else has been involved in the thefts. Some "snitching" has occurred, leading Law Enforcement to recover a few birds, with the thief getting a lesser sentence or no jail time at all.
Having knowledge of how the Judicial System works, after Law Enforcement has done its job, is important in understanding what happens to thieves that are caught, charged, convicted, plea bargained down and released back on the streets, committing the same crimes.
In Miami, the SAME CRIMINALS have continued to be let out of jail, bonds are set high, then reduced until the thief can afford to bond out.
Simply put, with the continued failure of the court system, the ONLY CHARGES that may apply are the ones that have to do with animal cruelty.
ANIMALS HAVE CERTAIN PROTECTIONS UNDER THE LAW, and this must be conveyed to our judicial system. Judges, Sheriffs, Legislators and other elected officials may not allow for plea bargains to continue if cruelty is involved, and if they are put in "the hot seat" come re-election time by the pet loving public, bird businesses, etc.
Having Judges pass out mandatory sentencing, and setting high or no bond for criminals who commit acts of cruelty to animals, will be the only way we can continue with our commitment to aviculture, our pets and our businesses.
Only through education and awareness can we make this happen.
In gathering data for this paper there were no documented statistics that could be found relating to theft and the recovery of birds. Unreported theft figures regarding species numbers and monetary value, have not helped in asking government officials to appoint a task force.
Even if statistics were available these figures would not be true, due to the fact that some FIRST TIME bird thefts are not reported.
Some SECOND TIME bird thefts are not reported by owners either, sighting that law enforcement never recovered birds the first time, and owners just did not want to bother waiting six hours for police to show up and fill out a report.
Some thefts are never disclosed, especially if private individuals use their own methods of recovery, such as buying back the birds through pet shops, flea markets or posted rewards, or through using other means which may be effective, but also illegal, such as threats and strong arm tactics.
ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO REPORT ALL BIRD THEFTS
No matter what the species or the quantity taken. At the least you will have educated someone within law enforcement as to the beloved pet/family member you have just lost, and also the monetary loss to you, which is now some criminal's gain.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
The current level of response from law enforcement has left victims frustrated. We are hopeful that law enforcement agencies (local, state and federal) will create an adequately funded task force for the sole purpose of solving crimes involving theft and cruelty to animals.