How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures

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Chapter 5. Special Cases

This section discusses complex situations you may encounter in the course of investigating animal cruelty complaints. The objective is to make you aware of these situations and provide you with possible ways to respond to them.

At the end of each discussion are actual case examples, along with related documents (where available).

The situations included are:


Animal Collector

Animal collectors are people who harbor large numbers of animals and fail to provide them with proper food, water, or medical care. Animal collector cases are complicated and require cooperation and coordination among police agencies, veterinarians, and animal shelters.

Normally, this type of case will come to your attention when you receive complaints from persons seeing starving animals and smelling bad odors coming from an individual’s property.

For additional information, see the articles on Animal Collectors in Shelter Sense, a publication of the Humane Society of the United States, in Appendix VI, “Articles.”

Things to be aware of when investigating:

When investigating the complaint, you may find large numbers of animals in extremely bad physical condition. In some cases, they may be lacking food, water, and shelter. In other cases, though they may receive some food, they are denied medical care, and as a result, are suffering intensely. Sometimes, all these conditions are present. In general, the conditions will be filthy and the animals overcrowded.

What to do

When you investigate this situation and it appears that you have an animal collector, consider this approach: Enlist the aid of the local humane society and veterinarians and coordinate a rescue operation to render aid to the animals humanely euthanizing those that need it, and then depending on the number of animals remaining, consider either:

  • removing the salvageable animals to selected shelters until the case is adjudicated.
  • impounding the remainder on the property. In some cases, when you have a lack of places to put the animals, you may have to remove the ones in the worst condition and impound the balance on the property.

The arrangement here is that though the animals remain on the property, their care will be directed by the local shelter until such time as the case is adjudicated. The owner of the animals is responsible for the cost of the care.

In order to impound the animals, you need to:

  • talk to the District Attorney’s office,
  • make a request to the local judge, through the DA’s office, that the humane agency involved be responsible for directing the care of the animals until the case is adjudicated,
  • ask that the judge stipulate that the owner is responsible for the cost of care.

Planning the rescue effort

Cases involving large numbers of animals, particularly farm animals, involve a lot of planning. Prior to the rescue effort, we recommend the following procedures:

  1. Contact a local reputable humane society to determine its capacity for holding animals. Given the limited capacity of any shelter, it may be necessary to contact shelters outside the area to allow for enough housing for the seized animals. Ask the humane society if it can coordinate the effort.If the animals are impounded on the property, determine which humane agency is willing to assume the duty of directing and monitoring the care of the animals until the case is adjudicated.
  2. Contact the appropriate people (e.g., veterinarian, animal control officer, humane society staff) to form a rescue team. Be sure to instruct all people involved in the rescue effort not to discuss the case beforehand. In addition, consider contacting other expert witnesses who might be helpful to your case, such as wildlife experts, reptile experts, bird experts.If it appears that any air or water pollution is taking place or wildlife is involved, consider contacting the Department of Environmental Conservation.
  3. Ask the humane society to bring collars, tags, animal carriers, white cards, black markers, and any other items necessary to perform animal identification, to the scene.
  4. Photocopy an adequate number of “Veterinarian’s Statement” forms and “Agreement From Organization or Individual” forms to take to the scene. A complete list of equipment and supplies for animal rescue operations is also available. (See Appendix IV, Forms and Supplies List for masters of these documents.)
  5. Arrange a date for proceeding with the rescue. Keep this very confidential; animal collectors have a network which will spring into action if talk of a rescue effort gets out. And the animals you hope to rescue will be gone from the premises into the hands of another collector.
  6. Apply for a search warrant; specify all the buildings on the property you wish to enter and the treatment procedures you wish to use on the animals. Also, apply for an arrest warrant.
  7. Advise the Assistant District Attorney (ADA), who is assigned to the town where the case is occurring, of your plans. Have the ADA review your search warrant for completeness. Also, ensure that he or she is willing to prosecute the case.

Executing the Search Warrant in an Animal Collector Case

When the police execute a search warrant, it is permissible for nonpolice personnel to assist them. This type of assistance is almost always necessary when large numbers of animals are involved. We recommend the following procedures:

  1. On the day you plan to execute the warrant, alert all people assisting in the case (including humane society personnel, veterinarians, volunteers, health department officials, etc.) and arrange for them to meet you prior to the time of the animal rescue in an area where you will not attract attention and a good distance away from the property where the animals are kept.
  2. People should be formed into teams and assigned duties before entering the property. Persons should be designated to handle the animals, ID them, and assist the veterinarians. One or two police officers should collect any additional evidence, photograph the scene, etc.
  3. If an arrest warrant was issued, only the police should enter the property initially for the purposes of executing it. Volunteers and others should be secured away from the scene until the defendants have been removed from the property.
  4. Once the defendant has been removed, secure the scene, and allow shelter personnel, veterinarians, etc. to tend to the animals.
  5. In general, perform tasks in the following order, so the animals can be processed, (but bear in mind that the circumstances at the time will govern how you carry out the operation; for example, if the weather is bad, you may have to remove the animals to wherever you are taking them and identify and photograph them there).
    1. Persons responsible for handling the animals must assign each animal an ID number, and place the number on a “Veterinarian Statement” form. Different types of animals can be identified and numbered as separate groups; for example, the first cat to be identified could be 1C, the second cat 2C, etc.; the first dog could be 1D, the second dog 2D, etc..
    2. Using a thick, black felt-tip marker, write the ID number that has been assigned, on a large white card or sheet of paper. Place the card in front of the animal without obscuring the body, and photograph the animal.
    3. Place a collar on each animal. Specify the animal’s ID on a small paper/plastic tag, and attach the tag to the animal’s collar. With kittens and puppies and other tiny animals, secure them in carriers and mark the carriers clearly with the IDs of the animals within.
    4. Have a veterinarian examine the animal and fill in its “Veterinarian Statement” form. Specify the physical problems with the animal and its disposition on the form, e.g., euthanized (specify reason), etc. The veterinarian should sign each form. To save time, the veterinarian can dictate information to a clerical assistant as the animals are being examined. Then at the end of the rescue effort, he can personally sign all the forms.
    5. If animals are being transported to various shelters, complete the “Agreement From Organization or Individual” form to keep track of the whereabouts of the animals.

    Important Note: In some cases, especially where many animals are involved, some animals may appear more neglected than others. Nevertheless, all the animals should be seized, if possible, because the conditions in which the animals are being kept are causing the problem. And it is usually only a matter of time before the healthier ones will be in poor condition as well.

  6. Process the defendant at the police station. The owner may be in violation of Section 353 of Article 26 of the Agriculture and Markets Law as well as other sections of the law as well.Because most of the penalties under the Agriculture and Markets Law are unclassified misdemeanors, it is not necessary to fingerprint the defendant; however, an arrest report must be completed.After reading the defendant his constitutional rights, attempt to obtain a statement by asking the following types of questions:
    • When was the last time the animals were fed and watered?
    • When was the last time the cage, stall, barn, etc,. was cleaned?
    • When was the last time they were seen by a veterinarian?
    • In the case of horses, sheep and goats, when was the last time they were seen by a farrier?

    Keep in mind that a lack of sufficient funds is no excuse for neglecting an animal, and neglect constitutes cruelty.

  7. During the arraignment which may occur while the team is on the property, consider asking the judge to order the defendant not to return to the property while the animals are being treated and removed.
  8. After the rescue operation is completed, ensure that the defendant receives a copy of the search warrant as well as a copy of the inventory receipt for any animals or property seized.
  9. Deliver a copy of the executed search warrant and a copy of the inventory receipt to the court as soon as possible. (Even if you impound the animals on the property, you might still seize evidence that indicates their neglect; that evidence must be specified on the inventory receipt.)
  10. If it appears that the animals may have to remain impounded on the property, advise the District Attorney’s office immediately, so that arrangements can be made to provide proper care for the animals.
CONDITIONS YOU MIGHT FIND IN A COLLECTOR CASE
Starving dog being ID'ed. Another starving dog being photographed.
7. Starving dog being ID’d
Squalid conditions found where animals kept.
8. Squalid conditions found
Overcrowding of goats
9. Overcrowding
First photo of dog with mange. Second photo of dog with mange.
10. Dog with mange
Goat with arthritis is unable to stand.
11. Goat with arthritis – unable to stand
Starving dog unable to stand. Crowded and unsanitary conditions
12. Starving dog 13. Conditions found
Raccoon kept illegally and in poor housing 14. Illegally kept raccoon in cat carrier

Examples

  1. Animal Collector
  2. Animal Collector: Extremely Large Number of Animals

Dog Fighting

There are several aspects of dog fighting about which you may receive complaints:

  • Pit bull “hotels” between fights, dogs used for fighting are sometimes harbored in abandoned buildings. You may receive a complaint about dogs barking in an abandoned building or shed, or you may receive a tip from a former member of the ring who feels that he has been cheated.
  • Organized dog fighting ring you may receive a complaint that dog fighting is going on in a certain location. Often these complaints may come from a former participant who got “burned” by the ring and became an informant.
  • Unorganized fighting you may receive complaints from neighbors about an injured dog, or a complaint from a veterinarian that a dog has come in with an ear chewed off and numerous scars, or you may receive a complaint that states, “Every Friday night I hear dogs fighting down in the alley behind my house.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City has worked extensively with law enforcement agencies to break up illegal dog fighting rings. The ASPCA can be used as a resource for law enforcement agencies investigating dog fighting and can provide undercover investigators. (See Appendix III, “Resource Agencies.”)

Investigating Pit Bull “Hotels”

These may have fighting dogs chained to walls in separate rooms of an abandoned building; they may also be kept chained to the walls of a shed or garage. (In rural areas, fighting dogs may be kept chained to dog houses, next to the person’s house. See Example 19 Training Dogs for Fighting.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

CAUTION: When you investigate a complaint about dogs in an abandoned building, handle such investigations with great care. BE AWARE OF BOOBY TRAPS, such as cut-away stairs, cutaway floors, razor blades imbedded in stair banisters, etc. Also, be aware that an attack dog may be roaming the premises. The dog may have had his voice box and nails removed, and thus not be heard. When you come through the door, he may lunge.

  • The condition of the dogs – Normally missing pieces of their ears, an eye, toes; current bite marks or scars around necks, shoulders, and legs. Ears and tails may be cut down or cut off.
  • Generally you will find pit bulls, sometimes Akitas and Rottweilers.
  • Presence of paraphernalia
    • Pry bars/bite sticks/breaking sticks pieces of plastic or wood of varying length, thin at one end and wider at the other. Used to pry open the jaws of a dog that has a death grip upon another dog.
    • Chains, ropes, or springpoles hanging from beams with various items attached to them (such as tires, or live/dead cats or puppies in burlap bags). The dog “locks on” to the items with his jaws and hangs there for long periods which builds strength in the jaw and neck muscles.
  • Cats and puppies that are injured or dead from having been used as bait and mauled by dogs.
  • Various sized weights attached to dog’s collar or heavy chains and padlocks around the neck, worn to develop strength in neck muscles.
  • Large bottles of various vitamins, such as Vitamin K, or steroids. The bottles may say “For Cattle Use Only”.
  • Saline solutions in plastic bags. This is used to rehydrate dogs’ bodies after strenuous activities.
  • Various vials, may contain medications and Vitamin E solution, etc. Short needles and syringes.
  • Surgical needles shaped like fish hooks to suture the wounds after a fight.
  • Treadmills (similar to those in a gym) to build strength and stamina in a dog.

What to do

When investigating the complaint, consider doing the following:

  1. If the door to the abandoned building is loosely chained, and you can see dogs in immediate need of medical attention, call the dog control officer or local humane society for assistance. Based on exigent circumstances, break the chain, and have the dogs removed.
  2. If the door is locked, and the property appears to be abandoned, if possible, contact the owner about a key to the building. In a large city, you can call the housing authority. Ask the owner or housing authority to accompany you to the building, along with the dog control officer or local humane society. Unlock the door and have the dogs removed.
  3. If the door is locked, and you are unable to obtain a key, obtain a search warrant based on your evidence; call the dog control officer or local humane society to accompany you. Enter the property and have the dogs removed. Seize related paraphernalia.
    Note: If you believe that there are dogs in the building, and you have to leave to find the owner or obtain a search warrant, ensure that you leave an officer there to guard the building so the animals are not removed while you are gone.
  4. In all cases, take photos (and if possible, video) of the dogs and the conditions in which they were kept.
  5. Have the dogs examined by a veterinarian and obtain a sworn statement from him indicating that the dogs were used for fighting. Take photographs of any injuries.
  6. If the dogs do not need to be euthanized, have the animal shelter hold them as “dangerous dogs” until you complete your investigation. See the law entitled “Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, Section 121,” in the “Various NYS Laws Dealing With Animals” section.
  7. The shelter is not to release the animals, but ask the staff to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who attempt to claim the dogs, such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian.

Investigating Organized Dog Fighting Ring

Information on this type of activity generally comes from disgruntled participants.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

Investigating this type of dog fighting requires undercover work, which can be lengthy. It is extremely difficult to go undercover and get involved in an organized, dog fighting ring it is very tightly knit.

What to do

Be sure your informant is reliable. Based on the information provided, consider the following approach:

  1. Do surveillance and determine the night of the fight.
  2. Obtain a search warrant and coordinate your effort with the local humane agency.
  3. Cover all exits, enter the premises, and arrest the participants and bystanders.
  4. Cover all exits, enter the premises, and arrest the participants and bystanders.
  5. Take photos of the scene and record it with a video camera, if possible. A video camera will capture the suffering involved in the event.
  6. Have the animals removed to an animal shelter.
  7. Have a veterinarian examine the dogs and obtain a signed statement indicating that the dogs were used for fighting.
  8. Take photographs of the dogs and detailed photos of any wounds.
  9. If possible, have the animals declared as “dangerous dogs” until your investigation is completed. For a definition of “dangerous dogs” see “Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, Section 121,” in the “Various NYS Laws Dealing With Animals” section.
  10. The shelter is not to release the animals, but ask the staff to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who attempt to claim the dogs, such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian.CAUTION: Ensure that you have support and assistance. Be aware that the organizers may turn the dogs on you and attempt to flee. Be prepared for this.

Investigating Unorganized Dog Fighting “Street Fighting”

This involves individuals “street fighting” their dogs in back alleys or makeshift dog rings. The majority of complaints you will receive will be of the “street fighting” variety.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

Important: The defendants will most likely tell you that they were engaged in a conversation, and their two dogs got into a fight. If that were the case, the defendants should have been trying to break it up. Your report must state that the dogs were engaged in fighting, and the defendants were not trying to break it up. The arrest may be based entirely on your observations, so it is important to make this point.

What to do

When investigating the complaint, consider the following approaches:

  1. Interview neighbors or known informants to determine when and where the street fights are normally held. Conduct surveillance to verify the place and time.
  2. On the specified night, arrange to be there in adequate force, along with the dog control officer and humane society. Prepare for the possibility that the dogs may be fighting and will need to be tranquilized.
  3. Arrest the persons involved and have the dogs removed to a veterinarians or the shelter.CAUTION: Be aware that the participants may turn the dogs on you and flee. Be prepared for this.
  4. Take photos of the scene and record it with a video camera, if possible. A video camera will capture the suffering involved in the event.
  5. Have the animals removed to an animal shelter.
  6. Have a veterinarian examine the dogs and obtain a signed statement indicating that the dogs were used for fighting.
  7. Take photographs of the dogs and detailed photos of any wounds.
  8. If possible, have the animals declared as “dangerous dogs” until your investigation is completed. For a definition of “dangerous dogs” see “Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, Section 121,” in the “Various NYS Laws Dealing With Animals” section.
DOG FIGHTING EXAMPLES
Pit bull dog with ears cut back Dog with scars from fighting.
15. Pit bull with ears cut back 16. Dog with scars from fighting

Examples

  1. Unorganized Dog Fighting (Street Fighting)
  2. Training Dogs for Fighting

Cock Fighting

There are two aspects of cock fighting about which you may receive complaints:

  • Cock fighter “hotels” – similar to dog fighting, birds used for fighting may be housed in abandoned buildings or sheds. (In rural areas, fighting cocks may be kept in barns or outbuildings.)
  • Organized cock fights – these generally take place in cellars, alleys; in rural areas, they take place in barns. The birds are transported to and from the fights in decorated sacks about the size of pillow cases and are kept in cages until their turn to fight.

Big money is involved in cock fighting; as a result, investigating it can be dangerous; however, in general, a cock-fighting ring is easier to infiltrate than a dog fighting one.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City has worked extensively with law enforcement agencies to break up illegal cock fighting rings. The ASPCA can be used as a resource for a law enforcement agency investigating cock fighting and can provide undercover investigators. (See Appendix III, “Resource Agencies.”)

Investigating “Cock Fighter Hotels”

In a city environment, you may receive a complaint about a rooster crowing in a backyard or in a building. In a rural environment, you may receive complaints about someone keeping large numbers of roosters.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

CAUTION: When you investigate a complaint of fighting cocks being kept in a building, handle such investigations with great care. BE AWARE OF BOOBY TRAPS, such as cutaway stairs, cutaway floors, razor blades imbedded in stair banisters, etc. Also, an attack dog may be roaming around loose. The dog may have his voice box and nails removed, and thus not be heard. When you come through the door, he may lunge. .

  • The condition of the birds
    • Kept in single cages, stacked in double and triple layers
    • Combs and wattles (red growths on head and under chin) cut off
    • Bodies may be shaved: from half way down the chest to the bottom of their bodies or their entire back may be shaved. (This is done to keep them cooler while fighting; it is also done to determine the winner – the loser has more wounds on his body.)
  • Presence of paraphernalia
    • Teasers – small stick with 8 – 10 strips of cloth attached to it, used to taunt the bird and make him aggressive
    • Various types of sharp spurs (made of bone/plastic) which attach to the cock’s dew claws to enable him to gash and hurt the other bird
    • Sparing “gloves” – little leather booties that are temporarily placed over the spurs
    • Glue stick to attach the spurs; candles to heat the glue
    • Knives to cut the glue stick
    • Nail files/toe clippers (like veterinarians use) to cut the claws
    • Weight scales and cock holding bags (look like pillow cases)
    • Syringes, antibiotics, alcohol

What to do

When you investigate a complaint about a large number of birds being harbored at a location, consider doing the following:

  1. Exigent Circumstances – If the door to the abandoned building is loosely chained, and you can see birds in immediate need of medical attention:
    1. Call the local humane agency for assistance.
    2. Based on exigent circumstances, break the chain, and have the birds removed and provided with medical attention.
    3. Take photographs of the animals at the veterinarian’s.
    4. Find the owner of the building, if possible, to determine if he was aware that birds were housed there.
  2. Nonexigent Circumstances
    1. If the door is locked, and the property appears to be abandoned, if possible, contact the owner about a key to the building. In a large city, you can call the housing authority. Ask the owner or housing authority to accompany you to the building, along with the local humane society. ORIf the door is locked, and you are unable to obtain a key, apply for a search warrant based on your evidence. Arrange for a humane society to meet you there.
      Note: If you believe that there are birds in the building, and you have to leave to find the owner or obtain a search warrant, ensure that you leave an officer to guard the building so the animals are not removed.
    2. In either case, enter the property, take photographs of the animals and the conditions in which they were kept. Seize any related paraphernalia on the property.
    3. Have the birds examined by a veterinarian and obtain a sworn statement indicating that the birds were used for fighting. Take photographs of any injuries.
  3. If the birds do not need to be euthanized, have them kept at the humane agency or other shelter as evidence until you complete your investigation. Ask the local humane society to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who come to claim the bird(s), such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian.

Investigating a Cock Fighting Ring

You might receive complaints about cock fighting going on in an alley or a cellar – in a rural area, it may be a barn.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

Refer to the “Cock Fighter Hotels – Things to be aware of when investigating.” The conditions of the birds and the paraphernalia will be the same.

What to do

Consider doing the following:

  1. Attempt to develop an informant to provide you with information about the participants and times of the fights.
  2. If you do not have an informant, do surveillance of the area to determine where and when fights are being held. Try to get someone in undercover.
  3. If you become aware of when a fight is to occur, (e.g., from personal observations at a fight), apply for a search warrant to conduct a raid of the premises.
    Important: Apply for a NO KNOCK search warrant and ensure that it specifies searching for all paraphernalia and searching above the ceiling as well – things often get hidden there.
  4. Arrange to have the local humane agency present to remove the birds. Humane agencies handling birds should be equipped with gloves and carrying bags.
  5. Be sure all parties who are involved in the raid wear either uniforms, hats, or jackets to separate themselves from the participants, in case weapons must be used. If there is an undercover person, ensure that everyone knows who it is.
  6. Ensure there is police coverage of all exits and entrances.
  7. Arrest lookouts and persons charging admission – for acting “in concert” with the organizers – which means they could be charged with a felony as well.
  8. Take photos of the birds and the conditions at the ring. If possible, use a video camera which can better capture the suffering involved in the event.
  9. Have the birds examined by a veterinarian and obtain a statement from him indicating their condition: eyes missing, puncture wounds, etc., to indicate that they were used for fighting.
  10. Ask the local humane society to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who come to claim the bird(s), such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian.
COCK FIGHTING EXAMPLES
Paraphernalia associated with cock fighting.
17. Paraphernalia associated with cock fighting
Needles, glue, and file used in cock fighting Weight scale to weigh cocks used in fighting.
18. Needles, glue, files, used in fighting 19. Weight scale to weigh birds
Pouch with fighting spurs for cocks used in fighting "Boxing gloves" used when birds are practicing to fight
20. Pouch with fighting spurs 21. ” Boxing gloves ” used when birds are practicing to fight
Fighting bird being received via US Postal Service Fighting cock with shaved stomach
22. Fighting bird being received via US Postal Service 23. Fighting cock with shaved stomach
Cock fighter hotel - wooden
24. Cock fighter hotel – wooden
Cock fighter hotel - wire mesh
25. Cock fighter hotel – wire mesh

Examples

  1. Cock Fighting

Animal Crimes Related to Satanic and other Cults

This type of case may come to your attention when you receive complaints about a mutilated animal(s) being found with symbols of cult activity around the body such as satanic symbols, bones, and candles.

The following information was provided by the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Boston and the Northeast Ritual Crime Intelligence Association (Boston), both of which have vast experience with investigating animalrelated crimes resulting from cult activity. Both agencies, as well as the Rutgers University Animal Rights Law Center, can be used as a resource for law enforcement agencies investigating cult activity. See Appendix III, “Resource Agencies”.

According to the ARL, satanic and other nontraditional cults are on the rise in the US, particularly in large cities where large numbers of immigrants come together to practice the cultural beliefs of their homeland, be it Voodoo, Santeria, Palo Mayombe, Condomble or Brujeria. In addition, there has been an increase in cults in the American prison system as well as in the general population.

This section of the manual concerns itself only with cult ceremonial activity involving cruelty to animals. It may take place in wooded areas, cemeteries, commercial or residential buildings or abandoned buildings.

There has been some confusion with regard to these cults and their practices and freedom of religion. Individuals have the freedom to practice their religion as they define it; however, they are not permitted to commit criminal acts, or interfere with the rights of others, while in the process. Thus, harming, killing, or mutilating an animal is not permitted because it is a criminal act. If they engage in this behavior, they are subject to prosecution.

NOTE: In 1987, the city of Hialeah, Florida enacted an ordinance that banned Lukumi Babalu Aye practitioners from performing animal sacrifice as part of their religious ceremonies. The practitioners appealed the decision, and it went to the US Supreme Court. In the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (113 S. Ct. 2217 (1993), the Supreme Court overturned the Hialeah ordinance. The important thing to note, however, is that anti-cruelty laws were not affected by the decision. In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously held that governments have the right to enforce prohibitions on animal cruelty, the keeping of livestock, and zoning violations.

According to the Rutgers University’s Animal Rights Law Center, the ordinances enacted in Hialeah were deemed unconstitutional only because they targeted the ritualistic animal sacrifice of one group of practitioners, rather than outlawing animalsacrifice in general. It was important to understand that this does not mean that animal sacrifices cannot be regulated or banned. In fact, if Hialeah had used the existing Florida anticruelty statute in prosecuting the ritualistic killings, the lawyers at Rutgers University believe that it is unlikely that the case would have reached the Supreme Court at all.

In NYS, any ritualistic animal sacrifice, such as nailing an animal to a tree, would be a violation of Article 26 Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets Law.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

You may have complaints resulting from an animalsacrificerelated crime that occurred in a cemetery, park, wooded area, etc.. When investigating such a crime, the presence of the following elements at the scene may indicate the presence of a cult and indicate that the animal died as the result of a cultrelated sacrifice.

  • Mutilation of the animal, including removal of specific body parts (anus, heart, tongue, ears, front teeth and front legs, genitals, etc.).
  • Cages for animals, limbs, lumber, etc. from which animals may have been hung. Look for any ligatures (ropes or leather ties) that may have been used to secure the animal.
  • Bones or animal parts (such as finger and arm bones, human or animal skulls, feathers, eyes, tongues).
  • Absence of blood in the animal.
  • Mockery of Christian symbols (inverted cross, vandalized Christian artifacts).
  • Use of stolen or vandalized Christian artifacts.
  • Unusual drawings or symbols on walls or floors (baphomet – an upside down pentagram often with the head of a goat within, hexagram, pentagram, etc.).
  • Nondiscernible alphabet.
  • Altars, chalices, wands, biblical passages, ceremonial type knives.
  • Candles and candle drippings (candles may be in the shape of genitals, or colored black or white.)
  • Oils, powders, wax, herbs, incense.
  • Dolls (a child’s doll burned or tied to a cross, also what is commonly known as a voodoo doll).
  • Bowls of powder or colored salt.
  • Skulls with or without candles.
  • Robes, especially black, white, or scarlet.
  • Rooms draped in black or red.
  • Books on Satanism, magic rituals, etc.
  • Crystal balls or other crude crystals, usually found in unusual forms.
  • Pyramids.
  • Sea shells.
  • Necklaces made of beads, bells or gongs.
  • There may be a circle which may or may not contain a pentagram.
  • Look for a trail leading from the circle towards water. Search for stakes, etc., used to place victims in a spreadeagle position (head towards the water).

CAUTION: Never investigate these cases alone. Wear surgical gloves when handling evidence. Some cult practitioners are avid herbalists and use poisons as booby traps. Be aware that poisonous snakes may have been placed in cabinets and drawers to attack those who might be looking for evidence. Other booby traps include: fish hooks hung at eye level, shotguns tied to trip wires, falling bricks and other such setups.

What to do

If your investigation of the scene indicates that the animal’s death may be the result of cultrelated animal sacrifice, consider doing the following:

  1. Interview the people who live in the area where the animal sacrifice was found to determine if they have any information on any occult activity in the area.
  2. Run a check to see if there were any criminal activities in the area such as:
    • Church burglaries
    • Satanic, cult graffiti in the area
    • Any missing animals within a three-mile radius (check with animal control officers and humane agencies.)
  3. Attempt to develop informants. You may find people who became disenchanted with cult practices and are willing to talk to you. Maintain Strict Confidentiality at all times.
  4. Try to find persons in the area who practice “white magic” or are witches. Many of these people may be able to provide you with information on cult activities or people who practice “black magic.”
  5. Locate stores (called Botanicas) that sell cultrelated paraphernalia. Do surveillance to see who enters and leaves. See if there is a connection between those persons and any names you might have been given.
  6. If the suspects are teenagers, go to the high school and find someone who knows the students and what they are doing, perhaps a teacher or coach.
  7. Once you have suspects, develop an intelligence file.
  8. If the information you have gathered is sufficient to indicate that animal sacrifice is taking place at a specific location, consider applying for a search warrant to seize all animals and paraphernalia relating to animal cruelty.
  9. Execute the warrant and arrest the persons involved and charge them with cruelty to animals under Article 26 Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets law.
  10. Take photos of the animals and conditions at the scene. In addition, use a video camera to record the conditions of the animals and the surroundings.
  11. Arrange to have the local humane agency present for the purpose of removing the animals.
  12. Have any dead and live animals examined by a veterinarian (and euthanize any animals that are not saveable) and obtain a statement from him describing their condition: eyes missing, puncture wounds, cuts etc. to indicate that they were used for animal sacrifice.

Preparing the search warrant in cult-related investigations

According to the ARL, if you have enough evidence to request a search warrant involving animal sacrifice, prepare the warrant to include the residence, property, and curtileges. While executing the search warrant, the ARL suggests looking for the following types of items any of which may contain evidence of animal remains or documentation relating to an animal sacrifice:

  • Hypodermic needles/vials/bottles (may contain blood)
  • Animal body parts in freezers/refrigerators
  • Ashes from fire pits including fireplaces, wood stoves
  • Wooden stand for alter, marble slab, crosses
  • Heavy wooden staff, sword, knives
  • Bull whip, cat of nine tails, ligatures
  • Human or animals bones, flesh, blood (especially skull or long bones, finger bones)
  • Animal carcasses
  • Ritual books, books on satanism, diaries
  • Small animals in cages, and empty cages
  • If adolescents are suspects, school composition books should be examined.
  • Computers and computer diskettes
  • Occult books, etc. may be found under mattresses, etc.
EXAMPLES OF CULT RELATED ANIMAL SACRIFICES
Mutilated head of pig that was sacrificed Cat that was tortured and sacrificed
26. Mutilated head of pig that was sacrificed 27. Cat that was tortured and sacrificed
Birds that were beheaded and sacrificed during Santeria
28. Birds that were beheaded and sacrificed
during Santeria, along with small doll
Carcass of skinned cat Crucified and burned cat
29. Carcass of skinned cat 30. Cat that was crucified and burned

Examples

  1. Cult-related Animal Crime

Irresponsible Breeders/Puppy Mills

Many breeders of dogs or other animals take good care of the animals they raise because they make their money based on their reputation for producing healthy, purebred animals. However, periodically, you may receive a complaint that the animals being raised by a breeder are not being fed properly or given adequate shelter.

“Puppy Mills” are operated by irresponsible breeders, with the focus on mass production of puppies, keeping the females constantly breeding with no concern for their health. The puppies may be shipped via air freight to various locations around the country and often die in transit. The conditions at a puppy mill are generally deplorable.

In most of these cases, because of the number of animals involved, you will have to coordinate your rescue effort with both a local veterinarian and the local animal shelter.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

Environmental conditions:

  • Lack of fresh water and insufficient food
  • Overcrowding, cages often stacked on top of one another
  • Cages not cleaned, feces piled up
  • Little or no protection from the elements
  • Lack of sufficient/adequate shelter (animal carriers serving as housing in lieu of proper shelter)
  • No floors on cages, only mesh wire; feces fall through on top of animal below

Animals’ physical appearance/behavior:

  • body sores/poor coats
  • bloated stomachs
  • missing hair, excessive itching – may indicate mange
  • animal attempts to hide, crouches down, pulls head back if you put your hand near the dog – all signs that may indicate abuse
  • aggressive behavior – may indicate abuse
  • lethargic behavior

What to do

If you receive a complaint that sounds as though someone is running an irresponsible breeding operation, consider doing the following:

  1. Obtain a signed statement from the complainant, if possible.
  2. When investigating the complaint, look for the conditions mentioned above. If they are present, apply for a search warrant to enter the property. If possible, have the district attorney’s office review your application.
  3. Contact a veterinarian and the local humane agency to accompany you to the scene. The humane agency can help remove and house the animals.
  4. Arrest the owner and remove him from the scene.
  5. Charge the owner or person responsible for the care of the animals with the appropriate number of cruelty charges.
  6. Notify the United States Department of Agriculture which is in charge of licensing and standards of care for animal breeders. (See Appendix III, “Resource Agencies.”)
  7. If the person is convicted of the charges or negotiates a plea bargain, notify the registering agency responsible for granting registration status to the particular species of animal, or ask the humane society that assisted you on the case to do so.For example, in the case of dogs, the American Kennel Club should be notified. (See Appendix III, “Resource Agencies”.) Upon receipt of this information, the registering agency will normally revoke the person’s registered breeder status, thus discouraging him from engaging in this type of behavior again.

Examples

  1. Irresponsible Breeders
  2. Puppy Mills

Pet Store Complaints

People may call and complain about the conditions that exist at a local pet store. The complaints may range from overcrowded cages to outright animal abuse.

Because the animals in pet stores are all generally visible to the public, in one sense the case is easier to address; on the other hand, because the pet store is a business and someone’s livelihood, it must be treated very carefully.

Things to be aware of when investigating:

  • Overcrowding, too many puppies or kittens to a cage
  • Cages not clean, feces piled up
  • Lack of clean water and food
  • Animals with hair loss, body sores
  • Animals are lethargic
  • Birds have overgrown beaks because they have nothing to gnaw on.

What to do

  1. Investigate the complaint. Examine the conditions that appear in plain view.
  2. If an animal appears to be suffering to a point where you believe exigent circumstances exist:
    • Arrest the person responsible or issue him an appearance ticket.
    • Contact the local humane agency, seize the animal and have the humane agency take it to a veterinarian.
    • Obtain a signed statement from the veterinarian regarding the condition of the animal and photograph the animal.
  3. If the animals you see in plain view appear to be neglected, but they are not in danger of dying, discuss the situation with the owner or employees. Ask him how the animals got in this state.
    • Inform the owner what needs to be done to correct the situation and provide him with a written list.
    • Tell him you will return in a day or so to see if the situation has been corrected.
  4. If the situation has not improved on the day you return:
    • Obtain a search warrant, (and perhaps an arrest warrant).
    • Call the local humane society and a veterinarian to assist you.
    • Return to the pet store and have the humane society remove the animals.
    • Arrest the person(s) responsible with the warrant or issue them an appearance ticket.
    • Take photographs at the scene of the animals, their cages, food/water bowls, etc.
    • Have the veterinarian sign a statement as to the condition of the animal(s) and take photographs of the animals at the veterinarian’s office.

NOTE: If the pet store has a bad reputation with regard to treatment of animals, but you do not see evidence in plain view that would substantiate the complaint, consider sending someone undercover to work in the pet store to gather evidence.

Examples

  1. Pet Store Complaint

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