Richland County sheriff’s senior investigator Holly Wagner has made her mark on efforts in the Midlands to identify and prosecute incidents of animal cruelty.
In 2016, she was declared a Champion for Animals by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and now the Human Society of the United States is honoring her for her work investigating cases and training officers in her department on how to spot animal cruelty.
“We need more individuals like Holly to help defend the rights of animals,” said HSUS of South Carolina director Kimberly Kelly in a news release about the Humane Law Enforcement Award.
Last month Wagner’s animal cruelty task force investigated and then charged an Army staff sergeant stationed at Fort Jackson when authorities found the carcasses of 24 dead animals – including poisonous snakes, dragons and a dog – in his abandoned apartment in northeast Richland County.
Wagner said although she alone received the award, she would not be able to do her work without the efforts of her partner Sgt. Joe Clark and community partners like Pawmetto Lifeline that contribute services in rescue efforts.
In the last year, 10 to 15 felony animal cruelty cases have been pursued in Richland County, Wagner said.
Most cases of cruelty involve dogs, she said, but as last month’s case demonstrated, animals of all kinds can be victims of abuse.
Not all tips lead to criminal prosecution. In some cases, an owner just needs to be educated about legal and illegal treatment of animals in their care, Wagner said.
The task force and her work with the FBI’s Violent Crimes and Gang Task Force to pursue dog fighting rings has raised the public’s awareness of animal cruelty and led to more tips.
“We’re prosecuting more cases and more people are pleading guilty,” she said.