LAPD Commission Approves a Dedicated Unit
"Animal Cruelty Division" gets six month pilot program


Abused animals need
and deserve our help
LAPD Commission Approves a Dedicated Unit
"Animal Cruelty Division" gets six month pilot program

by Judi Baylor

February 17, 2005

At the Police Commission on February 15 the Los Angeles City Police Department, the Department of Animal Services and the City Attorney vowed to work together on a six-month pilot program, creating a special unit to expand the City's law enforcement in the investigation of animal abuse, "blood-sport" and animal fighting. The District Attorney may also join them.

It's believed that Los Angeles is the country's only large municipality that doesn't have a dedicated unit solely devoted to investigate some of the thousands of crimes that are reported each year against the animal population. These cases include infiltration and destruction of dog fighting rings, the closing down of cockfighting facilities, and the arrest of perpetrators who are starving and abusing their animals.

Animal cruelty has been linked to many other criminal acts such as gambling, narcotics abuse and sales, domestic violence and other activity. There's also a correlation to a de-sensitivity to violence in general to those who are exposed to "blood sports."

In a meeting between LAPD Assistant Chief Sharon Papa and representatives of the Department of Animal Services (DAS) the roles of the agencies, and how they could compliment and cooperate with each other had been discussed.

The research found that there is increasing evidence of a relationship between violence involving "blood-sport" animal abuse and violent crimes involving human victims. Many major cities have initiatives in place that deal with animal abuse crimes and their relationship to other crimes. At this moment there has only been small interest in this matter in Los Angeles.

The City Council's Public Safety Committee will now look at the issue, and will explore asking the full Council for the necessary resources to dedicate a unit to investigate crimes which involve dog-fighting rings, cockfighting facilities, and arrest perpetrators who are starving and abusing their animals.

It was decided the LAPD's Investigation Analysis Unit, Detective Bureau will be given this task.

Animal fighting is often linked to gangs, narcotics, and weapons. DAS has no experience in this. DAS has always responded to any animal cruelty complaints and these cases are then referred to the Office of the City Attorney for prosecution. Few cases are prosecuted.

Animals ask very little
of humans ...
LAPD will investigate animal-cruelty cases that come to its attention during other investigations such as ritualistic animal-cruelty in connection with a homicide, crimes committed against animals of the LAPD's K-9 or mounted units. But until now there has not a special unit within LAPD that is responsible for any investigation in blood-sport cruelty cases. And LAPD does not currently track animal-abuse reports.

Currently the Department of Animal Services law enforcement efforts are limited to animal cruelty complaints, animals traps, barking dogs problems, dangerous and sick or injured animals.

Since there has not been any way to record the number of "blood-sport" complaints it has been recommended that the LAPD and DAS expand the City's law-enforcement role in the investigation of animal abuse and "blood-sport" animal fighting.

In a six-month pilot period it will be necessary to create data exchange protocols between the LAPD and DAS to gather the needed information to support or contradict the anecdotal relationship between animal abuse and violent crimes in the City of Los Angeles. The resources that will be needed for this pilot program are at a minimum, one Detective III or Sergeant II. The Office of Support Services (OSS) has been recommended as the Department lead for this pilot program.

The original City Council motion that got the ball rolling on the issue was made by Tony Cardenas and seconded by Alex Padilla, and asked that LAPD and Animal Services report to the Public Safety Committee on resources necessary to dedicate a unit to investigate these crimes. It was furthermore requested that this report include information on whether there are grants available for such a program, and explain how the LAPD and Animal Services are now handling these complaints without a dedicated unit.

A review of the plan approved by LAPD and DAS might occur at the Public Safety Committee as soon as next week.


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following also appeared as a special article in the February 24 editon of the LA Daily News:

Animal abusers may be warming up for more

By Phyllis M. Daugherty, Guest Columnist

The Los Angeles Police Commission's recent approval of a task force of police and animal control officers to address animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting is a major step to increased safety for humans and pets all over the city.

In his 1995 book, "The Mind Hunter," FBI criminal profiler John Douglas states that a "new type of violent criminal has surfaced -- the serial offender, who learns by experience and tends to get better and better at what he does." Douglas notes that the criminals' earliest act of violence is often the torture and/or killing of pets or wildlife, graduating to brutalizing younger siblings before taking intensified perversities into the streets or engaging in domestic violence.

Unimpeded acts of violence beget acts of increased violence. To the depraved person who feels powerful and in control only while inflicting pain or death, that "high" must continually be sustained by more heinous or morbid acts.

Until recently, law enforcement rarely related serial sniper shootings or the bludgeoning, rape and murder of multiple women as the latest in a chain of escalating crimes by someone who practiced on animals first. Today, arrests for prior acts of animal cruelty are regularly used to corroborate patterns of violent behavior.
It is also recognized by criminal psychologists that participating in or willingly viewing acts of repeated animal cruelty desensitizes the perpetrator or spectator.

The sordid and barbaric world of dog fighting and cockfighting is so abhorrent to the average person that it is routinely discounted as something that happens only in "other" neighborhoods or as a "cultural tradition." In fact, national experts estimate that within two miles of everyone living in any metropolitan area is someone who is actively involved in illegal animal fighting, either owning, breeding or training the animals themselves or attending or betting on bloody bouts where animals are forced to fight to death.

Recently a condominium owner reported leasing out two high-rent units in an upper-class building. When the second month's rent was overdue, the landlord came to the building to discover that the carpets were soaked with blood and the walls covered with bloody paw prints of dogs trying to escape. Pit bulls -- the dog of choice of both professional and amateur fighters -- can be conditioned to fight and suffer so silently that even adjacent neighbors are not aware a match is taking place.

Ignorance of the pervasiveness of animal fighting by legislators -- and even some animal-protection advocates -- has allowed it to burgeon unabated in L.A.'s gang-infested areas, where owning the "baddest" dog generates gambling income and fear in the community. Merritt Clifton, editor of the worldwide publication Animal People recently wrote, "Many activists don't have a clue how much harm the pit bull proliferation is doing to minority communities."

Dog fighting and cockfighting affect us all. They bring a ruthless criminal element into unsuspecting neighborhoods where innocent children are at risk. Beloved pets are stolen from yards and cars for "blood bait" to train fighting dogs and to rev up lust for the main event at staged fights. Absentee owners of rental property being used to raise and train fighting animals or conduct fights may have unexpected liability. Animal-fighting operations anywhere diminish surrounding property values.

Young boys are frequently present at animal fights to gather bets from spectators, creating a generation of youths in our city who believe maiming and killing is the mark of a man. It is an easy step from executing an animal to shooting a rival gang member -- or anyone else.

L.A.'s anti-cruelty task force can be successful only if everyone who suspects animal fighting or abuse immediately reports it for investigation. When you read about a sadistic crime against an animal, remember that the perpetrator is just warming up. The next victim could be someone you know and love.

Phyllis M. Daugherty is director of the Los Angeles-based Animal Issues Movement.


Here's the direct link to the LA Daily News article, Feb 24:

Animal abusers may be warming up for more

by Phyllis M. Daugherty, Guest Columnist,1413,200~24781~2728458,00.html