Domestic Violence involving pets.
As everybody know by now I am a retired NYPD Detective. I started the NYPD in January 2006. I worked patrol in the South Bronx. Then went to Organized Crime Control Bureau. Then as a Detective in Upper Manhattan, the 34SQD, called Washington Heights. I retired in January 2006. I saw a lot of domestic violence in those 20 years in which the crimes were personal and passionate with brutal violence. From verbal abuse to physical abuse all the way up to homicides and suicides. I will discuss my experiences as law enforcement dealing with Domestic Violence in NYC.
Back in the days the officers use to go on a domestic dispute and use to tell the husband to take a walk and cool off. Or if the couple uses to be brought in the Police Station house the desk Sgt. played priest, remarried them and send them on their way happy. But now times have change. The society and law enforcement takes a different approach. Domestic violence is a serious matter! Most violence and homicides are because Domestic Violence. As per NYPD COMPSTAT in 1990 murder was up to 2292. A large amount was because of Domestic Violence. Something had to be done. Politicians, law makers and law enforcements got involved and came up with laws and policies to fight against domestic violence.
If somebody commits any crime during a domestic violence the perpetrator gets arrested and goes through the system. It is a must arrest situation. The spouse had no say so. Even if the victim wants to drop the charges he or she cannot. The People State of NY would be the complainant and will prosecute. The reason is because the trauma and the violence caused towards the victim. The spouse would be afraid, or feel guilty and sorry for the perpetrator. The criminal would take advantage of that and continues the domestic violence cycle.
What is Domestic Violence? Domestic Violence is anybody who is blood related, living together (same or opposite sex), married or divorced, child in common who commits any type of crime towards each other. Physically or verbal abuse he or she goes straight to jail. The DA's office will prosecute and the victim will get help even relocate with Victim Services. That is great. But what happens when a pet is involved. Can they take their pets with them? Can pets be protected?
When a pet is adopted or brought it becomes part of the family. It is emotionally attached. You give it a name and now are part of your family. If there is an argument or it becomes physical the family suffers. That pet is part of the family. The perpetrator will give threats towards the animal. Using it to control the other family member or even do physical harm. The perpetrator can control his or her mate by emotionally or physically towards the pet. The victim will not leave and will take the abuse. This is why I believe and will fight for animals to be part of laws and police guide lines of Domestic Violence. Animals should be protected by laws as a domestic violence incident.
After retirement I joined a rescue group as a Pet Investigator in 2007. I did a season of six episodes called Rescue Ink Unleashed on the National Geographic Channel. Also a book was released from Viking Group call Rescue Ink written by Denise Flem. I am no longer with the group, but I'm very active in working on cases of animal abuse and neglect. During my experiences throughout the years I did see more and more Domestic Violence using pets as part of the abuse towards the spouse and children. Cases of the perpetrator would torture and kill the animal to get control and abuse the family members.
Law Enforcement does not have Domestic Violence procedures or guide lines on animal abuse in a house hold and what to do when they come across it. I would like to add animals in the Domestic Violence in the Patrol Guide and into the Legislation. Domestic Violence is a process in which starts from the smallest level as an argument between a family couple and a love one in which attacks physiologically and escalates to breaking or killing a symbolic structure or animal abuse to attack the other family member emotionally. Also by threatening that which is symbolic can be used to control the family member. When that control is there than it would escalate into physical confrontation up to what I call the red zone. This is serious physical injury or even death. To prevent this aspect we would have to see the symptom and stop it to the lowest level before it escalates. The animal is mostly a target of Domestic Violence situations. The love and connection is given more towards the animal by one of the family member during a stressful situation. Coping the loss of love towards each other would be given towards the animal which would give the advantage to the abuser to control mentally and physically its victim. This would cause in abusing, torturing or even kill the animal.
There was a case I had in 2008 in which a boyfriend brought 2 kittens, one for him and one for the girlfriend. She became attached to the kitten including her son. The kitten became part of the family. The boyfriend noticed this and started to control his girlfriend and her son by hitting the kitten they had more affection with. He also threatened to kill the kitten. One day the perpetrator entered the house drunk, and started to argue with his girlfriend. After the argument was over he took her kitten, went to the basement and threw the kitten in the dryer and turned it on. The girlfriend said it sounded like sneakers inside the dryer but it really was the kitten's body. She later found out it was not the sneakers it was her dead kitten. Then he told her to tell her son to get her son and tell him to throw the kitten in the trash. She refused to tell her son and she buried the kitten in the back yard. He was manipulating this family using their emotions with the kitten. The other kitten was left alone because it was his. Later on it was known that the perpetrator used this same method on his ex-wife and his own kids. I had to give this case to the authorities to make an arrest.
Another case was in Seldom L.I. on 2009, in which a mother of six children was arrested for torturing and killing 42 cats and dogs then burying them in her back yard. She brought these animals from a pet shop for her children as pets. She let the children get emotionally attached to their pet. The mother then punishes the kids by torturing and killing the animals while they are watching. Sometimes they would have to participate and then they would have to bury their pets. She also beat her kids if they do not participate. This incident was going on for approximately 10 years. The oldest did cry out for help but nobody believed him. This emotional trauma will haunt them for the rest of their lives. On 2011 she pleaded guilty. The maximum time was 2 years in which she probably got time served because she was in jail since 2009.
These are only two of so many cases of Domestic Violence happening in a house hold with animals being involved. Taking control and get back at the spouse and kids. Attacking them emotionally but really abusing the animals. Animal abuse should be implemented in the Domestic Violence category and should be punished to the full extent of the law. It should be used as a tool to prevent the Domestic Violence to escalate into a higher level in which could go to a red zone, in which would be death. The courts now takes Domestic Violence very seriously because of past history of these crimes of passion and so the animal abuse in these domestic issues should also be taken seriously. Animal abuse in domestic issues does escalate into more violence in a household which could go up to death of another. To summarize everything please remember we have a choice. When couples meet they have a choice to stay together or break up. A choice to have children and raise a family. The family also has a choice in buying a pet or adopting it and bringing it to their household. There is a responsibility. The pet does not have a choice to leave or break up if anything goes wrong in the family. The pet becomes the first victim and get abused, tortured or even killed. Only to make the other family member emotionally suffer or gives the perpetrator more strength and power to escalate the crime of passion to the end when lose control and commits Murder. It is up to the people...the Courts to change the laws and make it better for the animals. The animals should not suffer in domestic issues. Please let’s all be civilized and make this happen. Let’s do it now.
So what’s the solution? How can we help the victims of Domestic Violence?
Yes there have been changes since I retired from the NYPD. The pets are allowed to get an Order of Protection in New York and other states also. The laws though to protect the pets are not in the NYS Penal law. It’s under the Article 26 of the Agricultural and Markets Law. That was not taught in the police academy. The officers would not know these laws and would send these cases as a Civil matter and not a criminal matter. Animals would be considering as a property. If stolen the criminal would be arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property. Which is in the NYS Penal Law? It was though once in the NYSPL under 155.30 an E Felony for a stolen dog or cat. But it was rectified because you cannot put a price tag on a pet. Pets are considered personal property. So when a person reports a pet to the police on the report it would be categorized as lost or stolen. Not a missing or a kidnapping as per the media.
In Dec. 21, 2018, former President Donald Trump signed into law the bill for the Pets and Women Safety Act. It protects "victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by acts of violence or threats of violence against their pets. The PAWS Act ensures federal funding to help cover the costs of pets at shelters or other housing options and prohibits abusers from threatening pets.
I do believe domestic animals, since it’s considered as property, should be considered as live property. Especially since NYS law states it has no price tag because it’s a living creature. There then should have two different categories:
1- Material Property - Anything that is non-living. Such as furniture, car, glass, etc...
2- Live Property - Anything that is alive, living. Such as animals, fish, trees, plants, etc... It should be in a category on its own because a price tag cannot be given.
Live property should be a felony and taken more seriously because it is more personal. They are part of our lives. Part of the family and it is God's creatures. We should not take a life away from any animal because we want to or have no use of any more. The animal gives trust, love and affection and has feelings. They should be definitely in a special category and protected by law.
Domestic violence is a silent and voiceless crime. The whole family suffers in these crimes including your house pets. The crime is a long time stretch. Years of beatings and torture (physically and mentally). The ending if not stopped would be death. That's what happens when domestic violence is ignored or not detected in the early stages. Abusing and neglecting on pets would become easier to be transferred over towards humans. It’s about taking control on the family members by threatening and torturing the animals. If you see domestic violence please reported. If you’re a victim, you’re not alone. There is help out there for you and your children. Even for pets. Animal abuse and neglect is also a sign of domestic violence. It's a tool used to control and dominate the victims. Please report animal abuse and neglect. You may save a life.