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This 'Wonder Woman' seeks justice for abused and neglected animals

Posted at 3:42 PM, Dec 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-01 18:25:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- She can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound and she doesn’t wear a cape, but many people consider Michelle Welch a superhero.

“We work really hard to make the best cases we can. And we try every day to do justice,” Michelle Welch said. “It is just as important as any other kind of crime.”

Welch leads the Animal Law section at the Virginia Attorney General's Office.

“Our unit is very groundbreaking. It is the first of its kind in the nation,” she said.

Welch and her team dedicate their lives to prosecuting people who abuse or knowingly neglect animals.

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“(Animals) are capable of suffering. They do feel pain and they don’t deserve to be abused,” Welch said. “It became clear to me that they needed a real advocate, a prosecutor who was going to do that case really effectively.”

From dog and cock fighting operations to hoarders, Welch lends a voice to animals who suffer in horrific situations.

“There are many animal abuse cases all over Virginia,” Welch said. “They’re very insidious and very prevalent.”

Over her 22 years at the Attorney General’s Office, Welch has witnessed attitudes shift and laws stiffen in the Commonwealth.

“I’m proud to say that things have changed. People take it much more seriously. Judges take it much more seriously than when I first started for sure,” Welch said.

Richmond SPCA CEO Tamsen Kingry said animal welfare advocates in Central Virginia have no better friend than Michelle Welch.

“Her name is Michelle Welch but we here at the SPCA we like to call her Wonder Woman,” Kingry said. “She is a warrior when it comes to protecting and defending animals.”

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Kingry said Welch's dedication saves lives and sends a serious message to abusers.

"She will hold people accountable for the very terrible things they do and the pain they inflict on the lives of innocent animals,” Kingry said.

Welch's tireless and taxing work is being recognized.

At this year’s Fur Ball, the prosecutor was given the Ellen Glasgow Award for Humane Service. It's the SPCA's highest award.

“The way we treat animals shows what type of society we are,” Welch said.

Michelle Welch doesn’t seek the headlines. Her satisfaction is giving a voice to living creatures with fur and feathers.

“It really is an honor to protect animal victims and seek justice on behalf of them,” Welch said. “That is where I get my energy. Animal abusers need to be brought to justice.”

Michelle Welch the prosecutor who doesn’t need a cape to be hailed a superhero.

“Oh, we’re the luckiest to have Michelle Welch,” Kingry said. “The animals are lucky to have Michelle Welch in their corner here and in Virginia.”

Michelle asks if you suspect an animal is being abused to contact your animal control or police department. Welch is a mom and also enjoys spending time with her dog Calypso and two birds Othos and Aeromas.

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