Animal Cruelty Cases in the News

A NC family was watching someone else’s Pitbull in their home last month when the dog bit the 2 year old toddler in the face.  No details on the circumstances surrounding the bite are provided.  The child’s mother reportedly then shot the dog, dragged him outside and left him to suffer in the freezing cold overnight.  When officers responded to her 911 call the next day, the dog was still suffering outside and was euthanized.  The mother has been charged with animal cruelty and discharging a firearm in public.


I found the story of Mittens, a mama cat allegedly set on fire by two 17 year old boys in Baltimore, too disturbing to write much about.  Depending on how well you cope with these types of things, you may choose to read the details in the police report.  You can also read a brief synopsis of the case (graphic photo of Mittens’ injuries at top of page).  On a cheerier note, Mittens is expected to survive and there is a video of her in recovery with her 3 kittens here.  (The video is graphic in that it shows her wounds but it also shows how very sweet and loving she remains with people, despite her trauma.)


The other story that’s kept me up at night – and prevented me from blogging much lately – is that of the trial of twin Baltimore brothers accused of setting a Pitbull on fire in May 2009.  As if the story as we knew it wasn’t horrible enough, new details have emerged in testimony about the unbelievable suffering the dog – later named Phoenix – endured.  I won’t post the details here but suffice to say:

“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said veterinarian Jennifer McGough, who treated Phoenix at a Pennsylvania emergency animal center for several days. The dog had puncture wounds on her neck and a leg, as if she’d been in dog fights before, but she showed no aggression.

“The degree of pain she was in was beyond belief,” McGough said, yet Phoenix “was just a lovely dog throughout the experience.”

The extent of Phoenix’s injuries was so great that after 5 days of veterinary care, she was deemed medically hopeless and euthanized to end her suffering.


I read about Mittens and the new details in the Phoenix case about the same time as reading the story of the mass sled dog slaughter in B.C.  Had to take a mental health break.

While it is sometimes extraordinarily difficult to get through these stories, I do think they have a significant place in the big picture.  Violence against pets – including the needless killing of healthy/treatable pets in shelters – is a societal issue which we have failed to adequately address for far too long.  While individual acts of cruelty represent a tiny fraction of the pet owning public, needless shelter killing represents a systemic attitude excusing and whitewashing violence against pets.  If we as a humane society fail to embrace the concept of no kill in our animal shelters, how can we expect our justice system to live up to our expectations when prosecuting individual cases of animal cruelty?  And how do we expect our children, who are often provided so-called humane education by the same public shelter staff responsible for the needless killing of millions of pets each year, to cultivate compassion toward pets?

As such, I feel it is our obligation to not look away from these heartbreaking stories of cruelty.  Because if we, as pet lovers and advocates and rescuers, do not face stories of cruelty in all their forms – who will?  In order to further progress toward the no kill nation we seek, a strong and constant voice of protest from the riffraff is a necessity.


Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

19 thoughts on “Animal Cruelty Cases in the News

    1. Yes I did (thank you to those who e-mailed me that story). So glad the puppy was saved. I love that the woman stomped down to the post office to demand a refund of her shipping fee after her arrest.

      1. Yeah, and now she wants her puppy returned to her. Rebecca Howe’s statement comes to mind, “I am too stupid to live!”

        That’s from the Cheers sitcom if you haven’t heard that before).

  1. I agree with you, because if we turn our eyes away, the broken system doesn’t get changed. Well said in what I know was a difficult post for you.

  2. I want to thank you for your blog. I’m so glad I found it. I read it every day and this post is particularly timely as I had difficulty reposting the story about the BC huskies… It distressed me in a way that I can’t quite articulate. But I did eventually repost- exactly because of the sentiment you expressed by saying “As such, I feel it is our obligation to not look away from these heartbreaking stories of cruelty.” It is hard to look, to think about these incidents, but the alternative is not acceptable.
    Anyway, I wanted to tell you that your blog is important and I appreciate all you post and say. Thank you for doing it.

  3. AS a society, we will not be able to approach a NKN until we change the laws that maintain animals (sentient beings) as property. As individuals, we must force ourselves to look at cases like these, if not only to bear witness for the victims, but to remind ourselves that nothing will happen until attitudes are changed. I know, I know, who needs more laws? BUT, in this case, we’d only be changing a law. A law that is archaic and outdated. If the vet in the Phoenix case was able to deduce the level of PAIN the animal was feeling, obviously we are dealing with sentience – my stove does not feel pain when I drop a pan! The animals’ status as property must come to an end and then we can fully implement a programs of compassion.

    1. I can deal with considering animals property, so long as we ALSO realize that they do have the capacity for pain and suffering, and do all we can to mitigate those things.

  4. Every time I have to look up something or someone at, I visit a site like this one– I have a list of them–it’s a short list but it helps. I got started doing that back in Katrina days when I used to go from the NOLA board to Pasado’s Safe Haven–poison to antidote. A long time ago a Jewish philosopher no one reads much anymore said something in a book he wrote called “I and Thou”–I’ve never forgotten it. He said wherever darkness and danger grow, the rescuing power grows, too. Yesterday I read this entry posted by on their Facebook wall:
    “just realized that we have just over 16k cases in the database, and over 21k FB fans. I believe that’s a metaphor–there are more of us than of the people who victimize animals–we will prevail!”

    1. Also encouraging to me are unexpected stories of kindness on the part of the much-vilified “irresponsible public,” like this one, published yesterday in the New York Times. Though titled “Chicken Vanishes, Heartbreak Ensues,” it is charming throughout and has a happy ending. It put me in mind of Nathan Winograd’s recent remark that a group of people recruited from any local dog park would do a wonderful job running an animal shelter.

      1. Karen – Thank you for sharing that story…seems we find ourselves overrun with stories of animal cruelty and people that act awful towards animals that sometimes we miss stories that have the happy ending. Made me smile! It is nice to know that there are still people out there that actually do care about animals…even the kind they eat!

  5. “While individual acts of cruelty represent a tiny fraction of the pet owning public, needless shelter killing represents a systemic attitude excusing and whitewashing violence against pets.”

    I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I’m no scholar but I’ve been pondering this subject quite a bit as I deal with the disposable nature of pets in my own region. I’ve lived in other cultures in which animals we have as pets are consumed as food. When most Americans learn of such cultures, they are outraged and look down upon the values of the other society. But in the end, which society is really better or more evolved? The society in which it is acceptable in some regions to raise and feed a dog which will later be butchered to be eaten? Or a society which puts itself forth as being animal-friendly and as fighting “for the underdog,” when that society says it’s okay to farm them by the millions (because those puppies are oh so cute) and then kill them behind closed doors when they’re perfectly healthy?

    This is likely an oversimplification, but I think that part of the problem is simply one of awareness. Most of us who post here know about shelter killing and the fact that the words “adoptable” and “euthanasia: are used inappropriately to justify or explain killing. I think that for the common citizen who has not been personally affected by what happens in shelters, the subject is simply not on the radar of consciousness for them. They know in some form that animals die in shelter. Using rational thought processes, they deduce that those animals must be suffering or somehow damaged. When I tell people how many healthy and treatable animals die in shelters every day using tax dollars and donations, when there are alternative life-saving methods available, they often react with shock. Some get angry. Some cry. Some tell me I must be wrong. That could not possibly happen in our society. I once had a co-worker, who had spent almost a thousand dollars for a Boston Terrier from a breeder, make the following comment when I was raising funds to get beds for the “non-adoption” area of the local shelter in order to get death row dogs up off of a wet concrete floor: “but, you mean to tell me that ALL the dogs in the shelter don’t get a chance to be adopted?” “No, Joetta. They do not.”

    People read stories of cruelty and abuse and consider them anomalies in an otherwise civilized culture. I think if most people knew about the purposeful killing in our shelters, and what they could to to make it stop, they would demand that the systemic killing end and that those who caused it to happen be held accountable. We’re better than this.

    1. Brie, this is very well written and quite thoughtful. It could almost be split into two separate blog posts: one for the cultural differences between nations, one for the ability of the shelter industry to hide what it does from our own public.

      Your final thoughts clearly speak to this imposed secrecy. What begs the question is why does the shelter industry hide what they claim is not their fault? Guilty people hide their actions, not innocent people.

      Wouldn’t it be to the advantage of shelters to reveal this carnage and use it to educate the public while asking for our help?

      Well, back to the secret wars. Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

  6. While I wait for the day that we will no longer need to blog about the senseless and unnecessary killing of healthy/treatable animals….I thank you for tackling this issue.

    Our shelters do NOT act as shelters – they act as killing machines. Place the blame wherever you please…but it all comes down to people’s perceptions. When we have shelters killing animals it makes people think that animals ARE disposable. When we have shelters refuse to treat things as simple as worm problems and instead kill them – they are telling the general public that IF your pet has worms why bother treating them – kill them instead. And, well if you can’t stomach killing your own Fido or Fluffy then just drop it off at a shelter and let them do it for you. That is how our society looks at these shelters. And it is because of the perception that we have about said shelters.

    When our shelters aren’t taking advantage of education then they are failing us. When our shelters dont’ want to implement programs like free & low cost – vacinations, spay/neuter – or pet retention counseling and food banks for when they have lost their income. When they don’t utilize fostering and rescues, or even volunteers…they are missing an VERY integral part of life saving programs that could slow down the amount of animals entering the door of each and every shelter.

    When given a chance to free media coverage how many times do we hear the blame game being played instead of the directors ASKING for help & support. Instead of turning people awway for reasons like: the person is too old/young, there are kids in the house, there are other animals in the house, the person doesn’t appear to be their ideal of a pet owner. All of those are no more than excuses to kill. I would rather see animals adopted out to “less than desirable” homes and be given EDUCATION that would make their home more desirable. Programs that are so desperately needed are not utilized – many time because people don’t know they exist! That is where media & education come into play.

    While reading today’s blog I was also directed to some older blogs that you had written. Some got me angry – not because of what YOU said – but because of what some of those posting had to say about your blog. People that are so similar to the shelter directors that don’t do their job properly – playing the blame game. “It isn’t the shelters fault it is the general public – irresponsible owners, landlord that don’t allow pets, backyard breeders, funding not being given by our congresspeople.” I am so sick of hearing those excuses!

    Until we have a massive overhaul of the shelter system and put people in the place of these shelter directors that continue with their @$$backwards way of thinking…we are going to continue having these problems. What type of degree do you have to have to run a shelter? Any? Or are these people pulled out of the first 7/11 that someone stumbles across?

    I’m just curious because I am in the middle of deciding what degree I want to go after in school and I would absolutely LOVE to find something where I can work with animals full time….I know the pay isn’t great but doing something I love for little pay beats having a job I hate with a higher pay level. Heck – I already do what I love for free and it actually ends up costing me more to do it and the only reason I do it in the first place is my love of animals. If I could take everything I have learned while doing my rescues and through blogs and educating myself on the shelter system I think I would be a great candidate at running a shelter and actually doing it ‘right’! So if anyone has any information that can direct me at where I can find the info I would REALLY appreciate it. I’d love to take a stab at directing a shelter and turning it around from a killing machine to an environment of fun, love, caring, and promoting the love I have for animals into an environment that can explode into another great example of what a shelter should really be.

    Shirley – I really respect everything you do. I know that handling the cruelty cases can be most difficult and stressful. I deal with it each time I have a ‘new’ pit in my home to work with, especially the cruelty cases. I cry when I am faced with being the one that has to decide if an animal is beyond being trained to make a good pet and has to be put down…I try to be realistic about it but when dealing with pits (who already have a bad name) there are time when the choice has to be made of what is best for the public and the animal. I cry while standing there and trying to show the dog the love it should have gotten, and instead it got into the wrong hands and the person ruined it beyond a chance of redemption, as it is being put down. I can’t save them all and I will ALWAYS remember the ones I had to put down (I have all their ashes) – but it is the ones that made it that keep me going.

  7. Erica, Shirley.
    Great posts and I agree that the blame game does not work although shelters across the country live by it. New ideas proven to work go by the wayside. However, no kill shelters that are not run well are also abuse, not death because there is no second chance, but still sitting for 8 years in a gravel outdoor run with an untreated bladder condition is no pinic either. Bottom line, shelters take respopnsablitity for the dogs they take in and are not held accountable. Change is strongly needed through out!

    1. You mentioned no kill shelters not run well…and it got me thinking about how many shelters say on their websites (or at the actual building) that state that they are a no kill facility…I have found a few through digging around that make the claim of being “no kill” – while, in fact they do kill animals.

      This makes me wonder how many other shelters do the same – and does someone have info on this?

      And I competely agree that the entire system needs an overhaul! I keep going back to thinking we need a government place group that oversees all shelters & rescues – I am more concerned about the shelters, but there are some ‘rescues’ that I seriously question if they are indeed rescues or are they more like hoarding-type situations. We really need a group that oversees shelters/rescues in every state – ran by a national organization that can oversee each state branch. I absolutely adore everything that I read about NAIA and wonder if they might be up to the task of doing something like this?

      Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

      1. Erica,

        That is what is most upsetting about the no kill shelter I mentioned. They are the opposite of what no kill means. Believe me they are no kill Misty was there 14 years and the list goes on. It is a privately run shelter not city but it needs a change, I would not call it hoarding, it is flat out lazy. No effort invovled.

  8. It’s too bad it takes so long for animal cruelty cases to work their way through the judicial system. Remember the horrific YouTube dog shooting in early 2008 by a high brow Orlando businessman? He was acquitted just last month after years of stalling, suing bloggers, and waiting for the public’s outrage to subside. By then everyone had forgotten about it and so the news barely covered the story even though when it first happened it sparked international attention. Tragic

    1. I remember this–it was horrible what those dogs went through. So lucky to have survived at all.
      Really couldn’t believe that guy was acquitted.

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