Animal cruelty crackdown
in Los Angeles has results
People involved in dogfighting, cockfighting and other abuse are targeted by
groups from the LAPD and district attorney. The number of criminal cases filed
February 8, 2009 Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
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
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 for 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 that ended in
August, the district attorney's office filed animal cruelty charges in 116
cases, nearly 50% more than in the previous year.
Last year, prosecutors won a rare dogfighting 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,
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
"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
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
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
"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 dogfighting for the third
time in a decade.
In 1998, the former carpet layer spent one day in jail for dogfighting. 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 dogfighting case since prosecutors started
keeping comprehensive records in 1996.
"It lets other dogfighters 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."
-- She ran the state's largest puppy mill; now Patricia Adkisson will spend 10
years in prison for animal cruelty.
In June 2008, officials found more than 700 animals
living in deplorable conditions at her
home. After her prison sentence, she will be banned from ever owning another
animal or even working with any organizations that deal with animals.
Since this case, state lawmakers have passed a law
cracking down on puppy mills.
Comment: Canada needs to get tough on animal abusers, too.
Petition politicians to take action on this pressing issue. We need to be
a voice for the voiceless.
States Urged to Establish Public
Registries of Animal Abusers
Courts need to rethink what
An inadequate court system and judges sympathetic to the perpetrator far too
frequently revictimize innocent, voiceless victims. It’s an insult to every
thinking person that excess drug and alcohol can be used as mitigating factors.
What a travesty. There was no justice for Molly.
Abuse of puppy by Centerplate CEO
creates furor; takedown by social media; letters
November 10, 2014 Update -
re: Captain Brian Whitlock stands
accused of murdering his mother (see above link, scroll down to "recent incidents"...)
Convicted Animal Abusers – Canada is now on Facebook
Animal Cruelty and Human Violence