Dave Aronberg: Fighting for Animals in Palm Beach County
by Josh Marquis
Dave Aronberg, a member of AWA’s National Law Enforcement Council, oversees an office of over 300 employees, including 120 prosecutors as the elected State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Dave was recently elected without opposition to a third (four-year) term, having first been first elected in 2012. For his first case, Aronberg tried a felony animal cruelty case, shortly after being elected to the top post in Palm Beach County.
Aronberg has had a very interesting career for a prosecutor, having served previously as Florida’s youngest State Senator in 2002. A lifelong Democrat, Aronberg was elected to that post twice before joining a once-political rival, then-Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi’s office, as Special Prosecutor for Prescription Drug Trafficking, a job in which he shut down Florida’s notorious “pill mills.”
But Aronberg says the event which in many ways changed his life came relatively late in life, right after he decided to run for Palm Beach County’s top prosecutor. In December 2011 he tells of attending an animal rescue benefit with friends who urged him to adopt a dog. Aronberg replied that he had never had a pet before, but if he were to adopt a dog at the age of 40, it would have to be “a basset hound with sad eyes and long, floppy ears.” The next night, his friend texted him with a picture of a sweet basset hound puppy that was looking for a home. “Look at what we just got in!” wrote his friend. She was very sick with “kennel cough,” as well as other ailments. But Aronberg believes Cookie the Basset Hound saved him, as much as he saved her. He says many people think she’s a beagle because she’s half the size of a regular basset hound, which led Aronberg to perform a DNA test. The test showed that Cookie was 100% basset hound — perhaps the runt of the litter — but it didn’t matter, because Aronberg was motivated by saving a life, not entering Cookie into pure bred competitions.
“She changed my life,” Aronberg says, explaining that growing up, his parents’ allergies prevented him from having any pets. Cookie was named for Aronberg’s grandmother, “The same week I announced for state’s attorney, I got Cookie! She changed my life, it’s an unconditional love.”
A graduate of both Harvard College and School of Law, Aronberg was selected as a White House Fellow during the Clinton administration, where he served as Special Assistant to the Treasury Secretary for international money laundering.
While Aronberg is proud of the Animal Cruelty Unit in his office, staffed by a dedicated prosecutor, he has a colorful array of investigations he has led during his career, from busting corrupt doctors selling narcotics to helping to shut down the infamous “Psychic Readers Network,” who were bilking Americans out of tens of millions of dollars. Aronberg’s investigation revealed that, among other false claims, the “Network’s” lead “Shango Shaman psychic” who went by the name of “Miss Cleo, was neither Jamaican nor a Shango Shaman psychic. “Miss Cleo” was really actress Yourre Harris, born in Los Angeles to American parents.
But when the National Law Enforcement Council was formed, Aronberg was one of the first to sign up. He had already been given the “Wings” Award by the Pegasus Foundation for his work fighting animal cruelty.
Aronberg says that a society often should be judged on how it treats its “most vulnerable. and (dog and cats) who can’t call 911.” As a long-time prosecutor, he also notes the proven link behind early and serious acts of animal cruelty and a pattern of long-term violence, particularly when it comes to domestic violence, among animal abuse offenders.
Forming a close relationship with an animal, in this case Cookie, “was an epiphany for me.”
Josh Marquis is co-chairman of NLEC.
Other NLEC News
While Aronberg is proud of the Animal Cruelty Unit in his office, staffed by a dedicated prosecutor, he has a colorful array of investigations he has led during his career, from busting corrupt doctors selling narcotics to helping to shut down the infamous “Psychic Readers Network,”