Well-deserved recognition

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, February 23, 2012

The city of Suffolk is blessed to have some high-profile defenders of animals.

A whole organization, the Suffolk Humane Society, was founded with the goal of improving the lives of unwanted pets and other animals. That group has worked hard since its inception to reduce the number of cats and dogs that are euthanized and to encourage animal owners to have their pets spayed or neutered to reduce the number of unwanted pets that wind up in the animal shelter awaiting adoption or euthanasia.

But there are some animals that need more than the Humane Society can do for them. A distressingly large number of animals in Suffolk find themselves at the seemingly nonexistent mercy of abusers, people who either think the animals unworthy of basic humane treatment or who actively seek to hurt them for whatever perverted purposes their minds can concoct.

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Those animals have found a special friend and defender in assistant commonwealth’s attorney Susan Walton, who was honored this week as one of the Top 10 Animal Defenders in the nation by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Walton has prosecuted animal cruelty cases in Suffolk — more than 100 of them to date — for most of the 12 years she has spent in the city’s Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. To be sure, there are plenty of other cases on her plate at any given time — a prosecutor in Suffolk doesn’t have the time to specialize, after all. But her passion is for protecting animals.

Walton has prosecuted cases involving dogs with embedded collars, kittens beaten to death, dogs and cats set on fire and cattle that were starved to death. Most of her cases involved dogs, but there have been plenty of cats, rabbits, horses, cattle, goats and chickens as well.

“It’s not just about punishment,” she said recently. “It’s about providing a safe environment for not only that animal, but any future animals.”

Suffolk is fortunate to have someone like Walton on the watch for justice for all of God’s creatures. She is a wonderful counterpart to the city’s Humane Society. Her recognition by the Animal Legal Defense Fund is well deserved.