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February 7, 2009

Please Help Animals

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cruelty8-2009feb08,0,5528171,full.story
From the Los Angeles Times

Animal cruelty crackdown in Los Angeles has results

People involved in dog-fighting, cockfighting and other abuse are targeted by groups from the LAPD and district attorney. The number of criminal cases filed has jumped.
By Jack Leonard

February 8, 2009

Furious that his girlfriend had broken up with him and stopped taking his calls, Steven Butcher decided to take his anger out on the couple's small puppy.

"Every time you . . . don't pick up the phone, I am beating the dog," Butcher said in an angry voice-mail message he left for his ex-girlfriend. In a later message, as the dog yelped and cried in the background, he said: "You got some more of the dog getting beat."

When police officers arrived at Butcher's Reseda home, they found Nelia, the pit bull puppy, shivering in a sink with cold water running over her. The animal's jaw had been broken, her eye sockets had been fractured and several of her ribs had been cracked.

Butcher, 23, was charged and convicted last year of animal cruelty -- one of a growing number of serious animal abuse cases in Los Angeles, where police and prosecutors say they are taking crimes against animals more seriously than ever.

The Los Angeles Police Department has devoted five officers and detectives to a task force dedicated to investigating animal abuse and neglect. The county district attorney's office recently began training a select group of prosecutors to handle animal-related cases and is seeking tougher sentences for repeat offenders.

Los Angeles has become a national model for its stepped-up enforcement of animal cruelty laws, animal welfare experts said. The efforts by L.A. authorities and others throughout the country have been propelled by a growing public disgust of such abuse and mounting evidence of a link between animal cruelty and other types of crime.

"As a society, we're just less tolerant of unnecessary and unjustified cruelty to animals," said Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of the animal cruelty and fighting campaign at the Humane Society of the United States.

In Los Angeles County, records show that during the 12 months ending in August, the district attorney's office filed animal cruelty charges in 116 cases, nearly 50% more than the previous year.

Last year, prosecutors won a rare dog-fighting trial against a 42-year-old nurse, who was sentenced to three years in prison. And in a separate case, the first person they had ever charged with a felony for cockfighting was convicted.

Randall Lockwood, an expert on animal abuse and a senior vice president at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said Los Angeles had adopted one of "the more progressive approaches" in the nation in dealing with crimes against animals.

"It's something that's needed in more major cities," he said.

The Los Angeles City Council created the Animal Cruelty Task Force in 2005, following a proposal by Councilman Tony Cardenas. In backing the measure, LAPD officials cited studies finding that animal abusers were often involved in other crimes such as drug trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence.

Task force detectives said they have seen the connection for themselves.

In the case of Nelia, the beaten puppy, police said her owner also threatened to kill his girlfriend during some of his phone calls. He was sentenced last year to 270 days in jail for animal cruelty, placed on five years' probation and ordered to undergo counseling. The puppy survived and was adopted out when authorities suspected that Butcher's ex-girlfriend might reconcile with him, police said.

The task force investigates nearly 300 reports of animal abuse and neglect each year. Its successes include 57 arrests for cockfighting and several arrests for deadly violence against animals.

In 2006, LAPD officers stopped Gene Speer when they noticed him walking along a Hollywood side street with blood all over his shirt. Speer was carrying a backpack. When officers looked in the bag, they found a dead rat terrier that belonged to his roommate.

Speer, 34, told police that the dog, Nehi, had bitten him and he had struck out in self-defense. But LAPD Det. Susan Brumagin, a member of the task force, said officers found animal feces on the carpet and believed that Speer beat the dog to death with a shoe after the animal defecated. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

"None of the people we arrest think they could go to prison for hurting a dog or a cat," Brumagin said. "They don't show remorse. . . . They're more shocked and surprised."

From a small office on the 18th floor of the downtown criminal courthouse, Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah Knaan oversees all of the district attorney's prosecutions for animal abuse.

A former manager in the city's Department of Animal Services, Knaan offers advice to prosecutors about animal cases and organizes training programs for prosecutors and police officers on identifying signs of cruelty and neglect. She has also written a proposed law that Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley is sponsoring to ban people convicted of animal cruelty from owning pets for up to life.

During a recent interview, Knaan sat behind a desk adorned with a photo of herself cuddling her three dogs -- Ziggy and Spice, her two Jack Russell terriers, and Elmo, a Dachshund-Chihuahua mix -- and spoke about the need to protect animals.

"They cannot talk. They cannot get away. . . . They're totally vulnerable," she said. "It's our huge obligation to them to take care of them."

Last year, Knaan filed felony cockfighting charges against Israel Ramirez, marking the first time the district attorney's office had treated cockfighting as a felony since state lawmakers changed the law in 2006 to allow prosecutors to do so for repeat offenders.

Ramirez, who had three prior convictions for cockfighting-related offenses, had been arrested at his home in South Los Angeles in the middle of what police said was a contest, or "Derby Day." Officers seized about 50 roosters and numerous knives used to attach to the birds' spurs for fighting.

Knaan said Ramirez charged spectators $20 each to watch the fights and sold them sandwiches and beer. "It was a real moneymaking sporting event," she said.

Ramirez was sentenced last month to 360 days in jail and ordered to undergo a year of animal abuse counseling.

Last year, prosecutors charged Jerome Woods, 55, with dog-fighting for the third time in a decade.

In 1998, the former carpet layer spent one day in jail for dog-fighting. In 2000, he was convicted again and incarcerated for 23 days.

Woods' latest trouble came when the task force searched his South L.A. home and found 11 pit bulls, all but one locked in chain-link cages. Several of the dogs bore scars on their heads and forelegs -- injuries consistent with fighting. Police also found three treadmills, commonly used to train fighting dogs, and a blood-spattered plywood enclosure used for fights.

Woods pleaded guilty in June and was sentenced to five years in prison -- the longest sentence in a Los Angeles dog-fighting case since prosecutors started keeping comprehensive records in 1996.

"It lets other dog-fighters know that . . . they're not going to get a slap on the wrist like Mr. Woods did in the past," Knaan said. "We reflect society, and society feels that it should be taken seriously."

------

One of my two dogs is a rescue, and she is my angel. I could not have asked for a better or more loyal friend. I have shot movies at a county shelter, and while the facility was very well maintained, it was the hardest two days of my life, with all the helpless faces staring out at me. I came across a flyer while there which lists Animal Help Agencies & Rescue Groups. There's a specialty rescue group for every breed and type of animal, so if you know what you want, try a google search for your area, or contact one of these agencies:

Ace of Hearts 310-358-3344
Actors & Others for Animals 818-755-6045
Adopt A Chow LA 310-306-2871
Adopt-A-Star Greyhound 310-985-5505
Afghan Hound Rescue 909-305-0552
All Retriever Friends 818-951-8686
Amanda Foundation 310-278-2935
American Eskimo Dog Rescue 562-928-4933
American Humane Assoc. 800-227-4645
American Tortoise Rescue 800-938-3553
AngelDogs Rescue 661-299-2307
Animal Avengers 323-655-4220
Animal Guardian Society 310-652-8618
Animal Poison Hotline 888-232-8870
Animal Rescue Volunteers 805-579-8047
Animal Safety Net 323-733-0219
Animals Rule Rescue 310-832-9929
Australian Shepherd in So. CA 951-943-8830
Basset Hound Rescue/So. CA 805-524-9353
Basset Rescue Connection 800-411-2388
Beagles & Buddies 626-444-9664
Belgian Shepherd Rescue 310-326-6447
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary 818-377-9778
Border Collie Rescue of CA 310-547-9574
Boston Buddies Rescue 310-364-4543
Boxer Rescue 213-532-6541
Brittany Foundation 661-713-5240
Bunny Bunch 909-591-7200
Bunny Luv Rabbit Rescue 818-988-4488
California Poison Control 800-876-4766
California Wildlife Center 818-591-9453
Canine Companions for Independence 800-572-2275
C.A.R.E. 818-685-9980
Cat & Dog Rescue Assoc. 323-666-1357
Cat Crossing 818-759-6554
C.A.T.S., Inc. 818-341-8936
Cats In Need 909-622-0121
Collie Rescue 626-398-8987
Crow and Raven Rescue 626-262-8227
Department of Sanitation 800-773-2489
Dogs for the Deaf 541-826-9220
Doris Day Animal League 202-546-1761
Ellen's Precious Pooches 818-343-0360
English Bulldog Rescue 714-612-0265
English Springer Rescue Amer. 818-363-5754
Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition 310-820-4122
Fetching Comp Retriever Rescue 818-412-3382
Forte Animal Rescue 310-362-0321
Friends For Pets Foundation 818-767-5919
Friends of Animals Foundation 310-479-5089
Friends of Parrots Group 310-459-0166
German Shepherd Rescue 818-558-7560
Giant Schnauzer Rescue 714-893-5821
Golden Retriever Club & Rescue 818-700-5200
Great Dane Adoptions/Rescue 951-279-5100
Greyhound Adoption Center 805-987-7628
Greyhound Pets of America 562-694-3519
Greyhounds--Retired Racers 661-269-2544
GreySave--Greyhound Rescue 866-473-9728
Guide Dogs for the Blind 800-295-4050
Guide Dogs of America 818-362-5834
H.A.R.T. 805-524-4542
Hearts for Hounds 714-721-4221
Hummingbird Rescue 818-881-0053
Karma Rescue 310-512-7833
Kitten Rescue 818-347-3037
L.A. Pot Bellied Pig Assoc 818-899-8465
L.A. Pot Bellied Pig Rescue 805-955-0240
Lange Foundation 310-472-7727
Lhasa Happy Homes 310-74-LHASA
L.I.F.E. Animal Rescue 818-707-2007
Life 4 Paws 818-772-4335
Lifeline For Pets 818-951-1164
Little Angels Pug Rescue 626-795-3944
Maxie Animal Fund 323-726-3444
Mercy Crusade 818-597-2926
Much Love Animal Rescue 310-636-9115
National Poison Center 888-426-4435
The Nature Network, Inc. 310-289-4188
Nature of Wildworks 310-455-0550
New Leash on Life 661-255-0097
Opossum Society of CA 714-536-3538
Orange County Cavy Haven 714-242-7548
Pacific Coast Dog Rescue 818-701-0659
Parrots First 866-248-7670x5937
Parrot Information Hotline 818-613-4003
Parrot Society of Los Angeles 310-358-2907
Paws for Peace 800-269-3591
PAWS L.A. 323-464-7297
Paws With A Cause 800-253-7297
People and CATS Together 310-230-5974
Perfect Pet Rescue 310-726-3731
Pet Adoption Fund 818-340-1687
Pet Assistance Foundation 877-772-9738
Pet Mania Rescue 818-848-5512
Pet Orphans of So. CA 818-901-0190
Pet Pride (Cat Adoptions) 310-836-5427
Pet Rescue Association 818-767-4400
Precious Paws 818-773-3336
Pugs 'N Pals 949-262-7843
PURRfect Solutions Cat Rescue 818-784-4297
Rabbit & Pocket Pet Adoptions 818-709-0055
Rabbit Rescue Inc 562-862-8844
Rainbow Rescue 661-256-7948
Recycled Pets 818-986-0201
Rescue Me, Inc 818-999-2400
Saint Martin's Animal Foundation 818-771-8750
Samoyed Rescue of So. Calif. 714-956-6180
Sante D'Or Foundation 323-788-3638
Save-A-Life 310-787-7411
Save the Dalmatians 310-803-5414
SC PAW 213-368-4608
Scottie Rescue of So. CA 714-893-5821
Seal Beach Animal Care Center 562-430-4993
Second Chance for Rabbits, Inc 562-807-0071
Serenity Place Rescue 818-999-4022
Shambala 661-268-0380
South Bay Bird Society 310-376-5954
So. Cal. Boston Terrier Rescue 310-364-4543
So. Cal. Dachschund Rescue 818-795-2201
So. Cal. Labrador Retriever Rescue 888-554-ALAB
So. Cal. Siamese Rescue 818-830-3380
Southland Collie Rescue 310-366-5573
Southland Sheltie Rescue 818-996-1269
Southwest Herpetologists Soc. 818-503-2052
Sparky & The Gang 310-621-1417
SPCA-L.A. 888-SPCA-LA1
Stray Cat Alliance 310-281-6973
The Bill Foundation 310-860-0171
The Eco Station 310-842-8060
The Purple Cow & Friends 760-749-4790
TigerLily Cat Rescue 661-252-9454
Urban Animal Rescue League 818-779-7720
Valley Cats, Inc 818-883-5252
Villalobos Pitbull Rescue 661-268-0555
Voice For the Animals (VAA) 310-392-5153
Westside German Sheperd Rescue 310-202-SAVE
Whale Rescue Team 310-455-2729
Wheaten Terrier Rescue 714-893-5821

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