The unconscionable slaying of 25 cats, whose bodies were found hanging from trees in Yonkers, New York, is a grim and grisly reminder of why it is so crucial to find the people who commit such acts and to bring them to justice.
Criminologists, sociologists, social workers and psychology professionals agree that cruelty to animals is often a precursor of human violence; it’s well known that many serial killers started hurting animals before turning their malice toward people. In a recent USA Today story, law enforcement officials warned that whoever killed the cats—by crushing their heads with blunt objects before placing the bodies in plastic bags and hanging them from trees—is capable of greater crimes.
The argument that cruelty to animals is a sentinel crime has propelled the drive toward felony level penalties for basic animal cruelty, and this year we achieved a milestone when South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a statute into law making the state the 50th to set felony penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty. In short, there’s no refuge for people in our country who commit random acts of cruelty against vulnerable, helpless animals.
But laws alone are not enough – they must be enforced. That’s why we train local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel on investigating and prosecuting people who commit cruelty. We now have the most comprehensive law enforcement training program in the country to instruct both local and federal law enforcement.
Earlier this year, we created the HSUS National Law Enforcement Council, which includes current and former law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country. Members support state and federal legislation that strengthens animal protection laws, promote animal protection training opportunities for local law enforcement, and raise awareness of The HSUS's animal crimes rewards, tip lines and other resources.
This year Council members have been actively promoting to law enforcement the new federal law that makes it a crime to be a spectator at an animal fight, assisting with the passage of federal legislation to protect horses from illegal soring, and working on outreach to introduce The HSUS and its resources to attorney generals and other law enforcement across the country.
In New York, where the cat killer is still at large, we have offered a $5,000 reward for information on the person or persons responsible for this heinous crime. Like our New York State Director Brian Shapiro said, it is unsettling to know that the depraved individual who committed this act is roaming freely in the community. Like all those who commit crimes against animals, this criminal has to be caught and held accountable. Our policy is zero tolerance for cruelty.