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School in Lehigh County trains police to solve crimes involving animals

Published On: May 05 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: May 07 2013 07:39:30 AM EDT

A new kind of crime-fighting school is setting up shop in the Lehigh Valley, but there's a twist.


A new kind of crime-fighting school is setting up shop in the Lehigh Valley, but there's a twist. The school is meant to crack cases involving animals.

Six years shy of retirement, Colleen Shelly gave up her post with the Pennsylvania State Police to concentrate solely on animals in the Lehigh Valley.

"Want to bring a first-ever specific training school that deals with professional crime investigation," said Shelly, who developed the first basic animal cruelty and animal law course for the Pennsylvania Police Academy. She calls it the Animal Crime Institute.


"What we want to do is train police officers to understand the animal part of the investigation so they can connect the dots," Shelly said.

The Mountain View Horse Rescue in New Tripoli, Lehigh Co., is a sanctuary for horses that were set to be slaughtered. Often times, the horses that go there are in very bad shape, said Guy Stanton.

"Finding it more and more, especially with the economy being bad," Stanton said.

Although the institute does care about animal abuse, it is not an animal rights group. Shelly said it only wants to teach how to solve the complicated crimes.

The crimes aren't only cruelty against animals. Shelly said they could include insurance fraud, giving illegal substances to race horses and deceiving pet owners by selling a mutt but saying it's a pure bred.

"Our school is a place to talk about this is the law, how to interpret it, when you receive a complaint this is how to manage the evidence," Shelly said.

A brick and mortar school isn't built yet, but Shelly said her team is conducting seminars at different locations until one is. For her, it's a goal to fill a hole she said she saw while at the state police.

"We want to ensure public they can have confidence in people coming out and investigating are well trained," Shelly said.