Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum (BARC) online classes are new online classes being ordered with increasing regularity in Los Angeles and Orange County criminal courts in cases of alleged animal neglect or cruelty (Penal Code § 597).
In the past, in resolving animal cruelty cases with probation, our clients often agreed to abandon the pet or place it up for adoption and the client would agree to volunteer for forty to two-hundred hours at an approved animal shelter or veterinarian’s office. Other times, the client would agree to attend 52 anger management classes (one per week for a year) and/or complete many days of CalTrans service.
In our experience, we have most commonly seen animal cruelty cases involving dogs (often being left in hot cars or puppy mill scenarios with unhealthy conditions), but we have also worked on cases involving mistreatment of horses (Penal Code § 597.2), dogfighting (§ 597.5) and cockfighting (§ 597i).
In other words, there really was nothing that directly addressed the causes of animal cruelty or made the client understand what he or she had done. BARC classes seem to be a better fit for this purpose or even pre-trial diversion.
The course is composed of sixteen units and is designed to take between eight to ten hours to complete. In other words, it is not a short course at all. The course is only available in English right now.
The course costs $199 and must be completed within six months of registering. If someone is having a tough time completing the course within six months, he or she can pay $75 for a two-month extension to finish.
One can visit their website to see how it describes its classes: “powerful and comprehensive online course designed to inspire change in attitudes and actions towards animals in individuals who have mistreated them.” The primary goal of the class is “to instill empathy and compassion toward animals, thereby reducing the likelihood that those who have abused or neglected in the past will reoffend.” In other words, the course seeks to “inspire change through knowledge, inspire respect and understanding for animals,” noting that animals have feelings, too, and “provide an overview of animal cruelty laws.” In this last regard, the course is a nationwide course, so California laws are not the only laws presented.
The course is open to all adults and juveniles ages 15 to 17 and is available nationwide, twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week. One only needs a laptop PC or MAC. The computer must have a high-speed Internet connection (1Mbps or faster) for watching lectures and videos that are part of the course. The course cannot be taken through one’s phone or a tablet computer.
One must first apply to attend and if approved by the course, one should receive an e-mail that is labeled “Invitation to Attend.” The person then may enroll and take the course. The person then receives a proof of enrollment that he or she can show a judge or probation officer. Upon completion of the course, one similarly receives a Certificate of Completion with a photo of the person who took the course, captured from the course’s facial recognition software.
The course is intended for those referred by a judge or mental health professional. To ensure the person taking the course is the same person throughout, the program uses facial recognition software (eProktor) to verify the same person registering for the course is the person taking the course.
The course explains its curriculum as covering a wide variety of legal, moral, ethical, financial and practical day-to-day issues involving the humane treatment of animals. The class was designed by animal cruelty experts. The information taught is reinforced through a series of quizzes throughout the program and then in a final exam, which students must pass with a score of eighty percent. Each student is afforded three tries to pass the final exam.