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 Texas Certified Cruelty Investigators - Meet our Instructors!

ETHEL STROTHER

Ethel has been in the animal care and control field for 20 years,15 of those serving on the TACA board of directors as both a Director and as President. Her experience in animal cruelty investigations and prosecution include one of Texas largest puppy mill raids, where over 543 dogs, 18 cats, and a goat were seized. She has consulted with numerous Cities across Texas in large scale animal seizures, emergency sheltering, and evidence processing. 

Ethel is a National Responder with American Humane, HSUS, and Red Rovers, and holds certifications in TLAER, Code III Associates ASAR Flood Water/Slack Water/Boat Ops, Pet CPR/First Aide and Equine rescue. She has an Associates Degree in General Animal Science, and has been a Veterinary Technician for over 30 years. 

Cruelty Investigations is one of Ethel's passions and she has been trained by the ASPCA Cruelty Investigations Team, Animal Forensic Science, R.A.I.D.E.R., and is a TCLOSE Basic Instructor.

JAY SABATUCCI

Jay has worked in animal welfare since 1984.  He earned his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1979.  He has served many years on the board of the Texas Animal Control Association as a Director, President, State TCCI Coordinator, and currently serves as the Association's Executive Director.  Jays worked over 14 years as an Animal Control Officer, and his first cruelty seizure was in 1986.

Jay was the first Education Officer for Fort Worth Animal Care and Control.  He served as the Executive Director of the Humane Society of North Texas and spend 5 years with the Texas Department of State Health Services in Zoonosis Control.  Jay Was recruited for Zoonosis and became the Regional Program Manager for the Southwest United States and Texas State Director with The Humane Society of the United States.  He spent a year and a half as the Animal Control Manager for the City of Arlington, and recently retired after 7 years as Superintendent of Field Operations for Fort Worth Animal Care and Control.

Jay has worked cruelty cases and taught cruelty investigation techniques to police officers and ACOs all over the United States.  He was part of the faculty for the 4-state certification that was the predecessor of TCCI.  Jay has worked tirelessly in Austin, Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Little Rock, Washington DC, and elsewhere to lobby for better cruelty laws protecting animals.  He authored the section on cruelty in the Texas Basic ACO Manual.  He is one of the preeminent authorities on cruelty investigation and animal welfare in the state.

DON FEARE

Don is a retired law enforcement officer who has been practicing animal law for over twenty years.  Ninety percent of his practice involves cases in animal law and he is an adjunct professor teaching animal law at the Texas A&M University School of Law.

As well as assisting in the drafting and passage of a number of Texas animal law statutes Don has served as both the court appointed receiver and attorney for the receiver in several cases of large animal organizations seized by the State of Texas. He has also served as both county and district attorney in civil animal cruelty seizures involving large numbers of animals. He was one of the attorneys involved in the largest seizure of cruelly treated animals in history, consisting of  26,000 animals seized from an import/export business and, brought the case that resulted in shutting down the last remaining horse slaughter plant in the U.S. located in Kaufman, Texas. Don regularly handles a large number of dangerous dog cases, teaches a day long course on defending dangerous dog cases and, is a regular guest speaker at local bar associations and at the Animal Law Section annual Animal Law Institute held in Austin as well as serving on the council of that section.

Don was recognized as a Top Ten Animal Defender in America by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and received the State Bar of Texas Animal Law Section Life Achievement Award for his work in animal advocacy.

JAMEY CANTRELL

Jamey Cantrell began his career working with animals as a veterinary technician in 1993.  This led to a job as a Kennel Technician for the Humane Society of North Texas in 1995.  He learned to perform every service the shelter provided, from adoptions to emergency rescues of injured animals to cruelty investigations, and worked his way up to the position of Staff Coordinator in 1997.  

After a brief stint as the sole Animal Control Officer for the City of Benbrook, Jamey was lured back to HSNT where he took over the position of Director of Shelter Operations.  He held that position for five years, managing the day to day operations of the largest full-service animal shelter in North Texas, until leaving in July of 2003 to become the Animal Services Manager for the City of Lubbock.  Despite making huge improvements in that city’s program, he and his family wanted to return to the D/FW area so he accepted the position of Animal Control Supervisor for the City of Bedford in July 2004.  He led Bedford to the prestigious Texas Animal Control Association’s Animal Control & Welfare Agency of the Year award for 2005 despite the fact that one third of his staff was laid off due to budget cuts that year.  

In early 2007, Jamey accepted his current position of Animal Services Manager for the City of Plano where he has expanded the shelter’s outreach, volunteer, and education programs and reduced the city’s euthanasia rate to less than 8% of all domestic animals handled – all of which led to additional recognition from the Texas Animal Control Association when Plano was selected as the Animal Control & Welfare Agency of the Year in 2010.  

Jamey has wide-ranging experience that was gained through more than two decades of working in animal shelters.  He has managed small (1-6 employees), medium (20-25 employees), and large (50+ employees) shelters, a private shelter run entirely on donations, a private shelter with municipal contracts, and tax-funded municipal agencies.  He has performed every task possible in an animal shelter, from cleaning cages to investigative field work to administration and has operated agencies with budgets under $100,000 to over $2 million.  He is a certified Animal Control Officer at the Basic, Advanced, and Administrative levels and is an instructor for the Texas Certified Cruelty Investigator program.   He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master of Science in Human Relations and Business from Amberton University.  He also is a certified mediator, has disaster response training through the United Animal Nations, has completed multiple NIMS and ICS training courses, and has obtained numerous hours of leadership and management training.

MELISSA DRAPER, DVM

Dr. Draper is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University in Animal Science and a 1993 graduate of Louisiana State University-School of Veterinary Medicine. She is currently a candidate for her Master's Degree at the University of Florida in Veterinary Forensic Sciences.  

Dr. Draper was a 2013 recipient of the Eslinger Shelter Medicine Fellowship. She began working for the Animal Defense League, a no-kill, non-profit agency, as a shelter veterinarian in 2000.   She has worked in Animal Control since 2007, serving as Chief Veterinarian for the City of San Antonio and in Corpus Christi, TX.  Her experiences in shelter medicine include: Rabies control, community engagement and live release increase,  high-volume, high-quality surgery, shelter medicine, animal cruelty/forensics, and pain management.  She frequently trains interns in pre-veterinary medicine, veterinary technologists/technicians, and veterinary school students.  

She is married to James, an Animal Control Officer. Together, they co-founded The ACT, an educational training program for Animal Control Officers.  They own a chihuahua, Pinky Pig, and the best cat in the world, Fluffaluffagus.

ALEXANDRA "A.J." JOHNSTON

Alexandra has been in law enforcement for over 10 years,  and a peace officer for most of those years.  She has worked many years as part of the animal crimes unit of her local agency.  She is an accomplished animal cruelty investigator and has a high conviction rate. 

AJ has worked with the Texas Humane Legislation Network for the last two legislation sessions, to pass important animal welfare bills through the Texas House of Representatives.  She is a citizen lobbyist for animal protection legislation. 

Animal protection is very important to AJ due to what she has seen  working as a Peace Officer. She has worked many cruelty cases through their entirety, from the outcry to the conviction. She has supervised many large-scale seizures, and many small scale seizures of abused animals. She has worked with many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies  to ensure that their cases are handled the most effective way. She is also a licensed Peace Officer Instructor, and is very active teaching police officers how to pursue cruelty cases.

Alexandra also teaches all the animal outreach programs and events for her department. She has also volunteered with Animal Investigation and Response as an instructor, investigator, and animal handler. She was deployed by Animal Investigation and Response to assist with Hurricane Harvey. She assisted with the relief efforts at Houston Humane Society as a volunteer with Animal Investigation and Responses and The Humane Society of the United States. She also serves as part of the ASPCA Field and Investigation Team and has been deployed with them on cruelty cases. AJ is a major force in the fight for animals to be treated humanely and to educate her peers in how to effectively stop animal cruelty.

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