GLOVERSVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — More than 100 people from 18 different agencies across New York all converged on Fulton County Friday. From state police to local veterinarians, every person in a prime position to identify and put a stop to animal abuse.

“It is pretty complicated and we are learning new things every day that can and cannot be done,” explains event organizer and Fulton County Regional SPCA President Renee Earl.

Earl says Friday’s conference is the first of its kind, but after a successful turnout, they plan to bring it back every year. She says after sending out notices to police and animal rescue agencies, word spread to bring attendees from New York City, Syracuse, and of course all across the Capital Region.

“There is more awareness now than ever before,” Earl says. “People are now realizing that this is a serious crime, and they’re willing to speak up. They are willing to come forward and say I saw something and I need to report it, whereas years ago it was I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want my name involved, I don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.”

The Fulton County Regional SPCA also flying in experts from around the country to educate New York’s finest.

Jeff Eyre is an animal cruelty expert who’s worked on cases in New York and New Jersey for 35 years. He stressed the importance of properly collecting and documenting every scrap of evidence to make an airtight case.

“For instance, in this state, animals are considered property so you have to follow through with removing that property from somebody’s house,” Eyre explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “You’re dealing with a living evidence and you’re dealing with a victim that can’t give you a statement. So in other words, putting it together is based a lot on the evidence that you collect.”

“What I want everyone here to take away is that they are not alone and multiple agencies around them can lend a hand if they get a report of animal abuse. Non-governmental organizations like shelters actually have enforcement powers through SPCA peace officers, and that’s the way New York and a lot of these agencies build up to enforce the cruelty statutes throughout the state,” he goes on to say.

He says not a single element of a case should be overlooked, right down to an animal’s improvement once you start nursing them back to health.

“You take that and you document it, document the care, any improvement in their skin condition, their breathing, maybe in their mental state too as the animal starts to open up. Show that through this type of care, this animal is flourishing. Through this type of care that it was in, it was going to die,” Eyre explains.

Meanwhile, Dr. Melinda Merck is a renowned forensic veterinarian from Texas. She says her goal is to change an investigator’s thinking process when entering a potential crime scene.

“We take our veterinarian knowledge and answer legal questions, applying forensic science if we can do that in a case, and helping investigators understand animal behavior to make sense of a crime scene,” Dr. Merck says.

She also explained how to catch warning signs when investigating animals who unfortunately don’t survive their abuse, including everything from blood splatter to bone marrow as a detection for signs of starvation.

“The post mortem exam for animals, which is called a necropsy, we’ll look for hidden injuries. Because animals don’t bruise visibly like we do, a lot of it’s hidden in the deeper tissue,” Dr. Merck explains.

Both educated attendees on everything from hoarding cases to dog fighting. When addressing citizens and their role in reporting, Eyre says not every animal abuse or neglect case is malicious and therefore a person shouldn’t feel guilty for reporting it.

“There are people that are just too proud. They are overwhelmed with the situation they are in, and we need to stop judging everybody. We have to look at how we can help them. If they want that help, then we educate and we start working with them. If they refuse it and the animal’s condition doesn’t change, then we need to intervene,” he says.

He and Dr. Merck also stress with the pandemic, domestic violence cases have gone up and animal abuse has gone hand-in-hand with that. They urge everyone to be observant and always remember the lives the animals deserve.

“Even with children, they at least are going to school perhaps or going to see a nurse that they can talk to, but the animals, they are behind those doors, behind those fences, or in those barns. So if you see something or smell something, make that call,” says Dr. Merck.