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Thursday, April 29, 2004 07:30 pm

Don’t be cruel

Deputy police chief James Burton, a founder and board member of Illinois Humane

A new animal welfare organization has formed in Springfield to investigate incidents of animal neglect or abuse and establish spay/neuter assistance programs.

Illinois Humane, a non-profit group comprised of unpaid volunteers, plans to work with local police and the Animal Protective League to crack down on animal rights abusers.

Local authorities each year receive up to 400 complaints of cruelty to animals, averaging a call a day, according to Illinois Humane founder and board member James Burton.

Since 2000, two dozen Springfield residents have been convicted on animal abuse violations.

"We have an 86 percent conviction rate," says Burton, a deputy chief for the Springfield Police Department. "We only charge people in the most egregious cases."

Board president Jane McBride says the group hopes to eventually have one full-time investigator serving Sangamon County.

While most cases involve dogs and cats, investigators are licensed to work with all animals, and have received calls in past years regarding abuse of everything from horses and birds to lizards and ferrets.

While some extreme incidents involve training animals for fights, most cases have proven less malicious.

"People tend to neglect their animals because they are simply overwhelmed," says McBride, an Illinois assistant attorney general.

Illinois Humane will operate on a budget of roughly $35,000 a year, supported mostly by grants and fundraisers, including one in conjunction with the SPD scheduled for June 12.

For more information, call McBride at 698-3804.

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