The Indiana Board of Animal Health has found itself in a unique role, being on the front line of the animal care issues. The BOAH was originally set up to regulate the state’s livestock industry, but today it has many different roles — from meat inspection to first responders for animal abuse cases. State Veterinarian Dr. Bret Marsh says determining what is actually animal abuse and then dealing with animals who are abused is something for which most local law enforcement agencies are not equipped or trained, “Dealing with animals and animal care issues is not something local law enforcement officers get any training on.” As a result, BOAH has taken on the role of working with law enforcement, “We offer the services of our veterinarians to work with local officials. It is a great collaboration,” said Marsh.
BOAH also finds itself in the role of experts in criminal cases involving charges of animal abuse. Marsh told HAT that BOAH has set standards for animal health in each county, “We when we say a horse is a number 4, everyone knows what that means. This is especially helpful when the case goes to court.” He added that many local law enforcement officials know the local BOAH officials and call them directly when there is a local problem.
Like many state agencies, BOAH has had its funding cuts in recent years, but Marsh is hoping its expanding role will encourage lawmakers to adequately fund the department in the new state budget.