Staggering Allegations Made Against CT Veterinarian

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In the United States of America, all new veterinarians take the following oath:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

But apparently some of them don’t take it seriously.

According to a recent news report, Dr. Amr Wasfi, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, veterinarian, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday. He is facing animal cruelty and third-degree larceny charges based on his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

The accusations are detailed in an arrest warrant and shared on an NBC affiliate’s website. As set forth in the warrant, Monster’s owner took him to the vet when he noticed Monster limping. That was on February 14, and the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee. Apparently, Wasfi prescribed some pain medicine and sent the dog home.

But when Monster hadn’t improved a week later, his owner brought him back to Black Rock Animal Hospital, where Wasfi again assessed the dog’s condition. This time, the diagnosis was a fractured pelvis. Monster’s owner learned that surgical intervention would be required, and Monster would have to stay at the hospital for five days (until March 7).

A stunning revelation

As NBC’s Connecticut affiliate reports, Monster’s owner told the authorities he contacted the vet that day, only to be told his dog couldn’t come home — yet. Instead, he was allegedly told, Monster had to “stay a few more days for monitoring.” Apparently, Monster’s repeated requests to see his dog after that were denied.  According to the warrant, he finally contacted Animal Control and retrieved Monster on March 25.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

According to the warrant, Monster’s owner then discovered that his dog, who 63 pounds prior to his stay at Black Rock Animal Hospital, had lost 17 pounds.

Monster’s owner then took him to the Emergency Room at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine. That’s when he learned that Monster never had a fracture and he never needed operation, which included putting a screw in Monster’s pelvis. One of the veterinarians that treated Monster at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine also told police that Monster was being treated for “refeeding syndrome” and dehydration. Police then learned that the treatment is warranted when “an animal is without proper food or water for at least 10 days.”

To make matters even worse, Monster’s owner also told police Wasfi charged him more than $3,000 for Monster’s operation.

An emerging pattern?

As NBC Connecticut also reports, that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Wasfi. A former Black Rock employee apparently reported that she “witnessed Wasfi hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kittens intestines popped out of an incision.” As documented in the warrant, the same complainant  also said that Wasfi was “agitated” and threw surgical tools around the room.”

The warrant also indicates she confided in a co-worker and said she planned to file a complaint. She also told police she planned to resign the next day, but when she showed up for work the employee with whom she shared her concerns greeted her at the door, in gave her a box of her belongings, and informed her she had been fired.

At this point, Wasfi also faces an uncertain fate. In addition to the criminal charges he is currently facing, he will likely face disciplinary action by the Connecticut State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Sec. 20-202(2) of Chapter 384 of the Connecticut General Statutes specifically states that the board can discipline a licensed veterinarian when there is proof that: “the holder of such license or certificate has become unfit or incompetent or has been guilty of cruelty, unskillfulness or negligence towards animals and birds.”

Sec. 20-202(3) of CGS Chapter 384 also authorizes the board to take disciplinary action based upon: “conviction of the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any court of criminal jurisdiction.”

However, the board cannot take any disciplinary action as long as the appeal of such a conviction is pending, or if the conviction is overturned on appeal.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Montana May Implement Crackdown On Fake Service Animals

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Now it’s Montana’s turn.

According to a recent account, the Treasure State may soon join a growing list of states that have cracked down on the use of fake service animals.

With an 85-15 vote earlier this week, Montana’s House of Representatives endorsed a bill establishing punishments for people who pass their pets off as service animals. As it now stands, HB 439 would make  the misrepresentation of service animals a misdemeanor offense. Anyone convicted would face:

  • A $50 fine for a first offense
  • A fine ranging from $75 to $200 for a second offense
  • A fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 for a third/subsequent offense

HB 439 also stipulates that anyone convicted of the offense may be required to perform community service for an organization that advocates on the behalf of persons with disabilities.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Within this context, it is important to note that these punishments could only be imposed if:

  • the offender had previously received a written warning regarding the misrepresentation of his or her pet as a service animal; and
  • continued to represent the pet as a service animal
  • in order to gain any rights or privileges afforded to a service animal.

Misrepresentation of a service animal

HB 439 defines misrepresentation of a service animal as activity in which someone:

  • equips the animal with a leash, collar, cape, harness, backpack, or sign identifying it as a service animal; or
  • says or provides written material claiming that the animal is a service animal;
  • in order to access certain places with the animal; and
  • it is determined that the animal is not properly trained to perform a service animal’s functions.

Legally, a determination regarding lack of sufficient training necessary for a service animal could be based on: whether or not the dog is housebroken; whether it is under the handler’s control; and the handler’s ability or inability to bring the dog under control.

Additional provisions

If the bill becomes law, establishments that don’t provide access to pets would have to post signs indicating that:

  1. They do allow service animals.
  2.  They are legally allowed to ask the owner if the animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task the animal is trained to perform.

Furthermore, establishments may not be able to make complaints against suspected offenders unless they have posted a public notice indicating that they reserve the right to do so regarding the misrepresentation of service animals.

Finally, animals that are not under their handler’s control or are not housebroken may be asked to leave in accordance with the bill, which is similar to language in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pros and cons

People in favor of and opposed to the measure voiced their opinions at a House Judiciary Committee Meeting on March 11.

William Austin, a disabled veteran who has a service dog, spoke first. Because people misrepresent their pets as service animals in order to take them into certain establishments, people who have legitimate need of service dogs are challenged, he said. In large part this is because the “fake” service animals are disruptive and don’t behave well, he added.

But Austin said an even greater concern is the safety of real service dogs and their handlers. Specifically, he shared a story about a “fake” service dog that attacked a real service dog belonging to a friend.

“There needs to be something done to stop folks who deliberately falsify their animals as service animals,” Austin concluded.

There Is No Punishment Harsh Enough In Kitten Drowning Case

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As many of you know I was a police reporter for more than 20 years. In my career I covered everything from the aftermath of 9/11 in the New York City suburbs to homicides, courthouse shootings and airplane crashes. So I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. To this day, I can’t forget those things. I never will.

And to this day, nothing makes my blood boil more than an animal cruelty case. As far as I’m concerned, there is no punishment harsh enough for anyone who deliberately hurts or kills an animal. I mean think about it. If someone is sick and twisted enough to hurt or kill an animal, they probably won’t think twice about hurting or killing a human being.

Alleged kitten killer arrested

So if what I recently about Junsong Zhang, 21, of Queens, New York, is actually true, they should just lock him up and get rid of the key. Now.

According to published reports, Zhang killed two kittens on January 22, 2019. He allegedly did so by putting them in a cage, putting the cage in the bathtub, turning on the tap, and leaving for nearly an hour.

As Zhang reportedly told authorities, the animals were “lying in the water and not breathing.” So he allegedly put them in a plastic bag and took them to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In a criminal complaint cited by the New York Daily News, a forensic veterinarian said both kittens were “healthy, and that one kitten had torn nails on its right front paw, left front paw and right back paw.”

A postmortem assessment confirmed that the kittens had drowned. They were just seven months old.

New York City prosecutors told the media that Zhang intended to “cause extreme physical pain” to the animals. As a result, he was arrested earlier this month and charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Zhang was reportedly “released under supervision” and ordered to surrender his passport pending future court appearances.

Possible punishment upon conviction

Under Section 353-a of New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law, someone is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she, “intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty.” In this context, aggravated cruelty is defined as conduct that: “(i) is intended to cause extreme physical pain;  or (ii) is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner.”

Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony in New York. The maximum punishment upon conviction is two years in prison.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s just not good enough.

Pit Bulls As Police Dogs — Now That’s Cool!

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Time for another confession. I love pit bulls. I think they are so cool. I’d definitely get one (or more) if I could. But unfortunately, I am allergic to dogs, I live in a small house, and the pet I do have is definitely an only child. So I’ll just have to “settle” for a pit bull in a cat costume.

I’ll also take any chance I can get to advocate for these wonderful dogs, which are all too frequently exploited, vilified and discarded by irresponsible and ignorant people. And I’m not the only one.

Recently I came across an article about a program that trains rescued pit bulls as police dogs. No, I am not kidding. Along with German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, Dutch Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers and similar breeds, some American law enforcement agencies are using pit bulls as police dogs.

As a former cops and courts reporter, and as someone who volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years, I think that is pretty (bleeping) awesome. In fact, I think it’s so awesome, I’ve probably written about it before. But if I did, it was more than a year ago… so I’m going to write about it again.

Animal Farm Foundation + Sector K9 = Success

The story that caught my attention was about Sector K9’s latest graduating class, starring Pepper, Hype, and Maverick. All three are pit bulls, all of them were pulled from animal shelters around the country, and each of them now has a second chance at life.

K-9 Demonstration at Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Grant funding from the New York-based Animal Farm Foundation allows Sector K9 to train rescued pit bulls as police dogs. But not only that. The  Midlothian, Texas organization trains their handlers, too. Once they’ve completed the program, some of the canine and human partners hit the streets in search of drugs and guns. Others head “back to school,” where they help provide a secure learning environment for kids. All of them are expected to participate in community out reach, and act as ambassadors for the breed.

“Participating in our Police Detection Dog Donation Program is more than conducting a sniff of a vehicle or a building. It’s about educating school kids and sharing your K9 with the community at events,” Sector K9 says. “We carefully select departments and handlers who share these values.”

Saving money, saving lives

According to the Animal Foundation, law enforcement agencies often spend a small fortune (more than $20,000) to acquire one purebred, purpose-bred dog capable of doing the same jobs as a Sector K9 graduate.

On the other hand, Animal Farm Foundation’s grant allows authorities to acquire K9s at no cost. Just as importantly, it improves the quality of life in the communities they serve while giving the dogs opportunities to do meaningful work.

So far, brief bios for more than 30 detection dogs and their partners are featured on the Animal Foundation’s website.

There’s also plenty of praise for the dogs from the people who know them best.

“The best thing about having K9 Wilson is that he did not just benefit one community. He has brought several communities together because other agencies have contacted us to do searches for them as well, thus creating a partnership between our communities,” says Officer Lucky Huff of the Quinton Police Department in Oklahoma.

At a time when law enforcement is often maligned by politicians and the press, having a pit bull as a partner can actually help kids overcome their distrust of the police, another officer says.
“[The program] benefits the community a great deal by impacting young kids and bringing them closer to the police department as a whole with the help of K9 Athena’s presence. Hopefully, after they meet Athena, they walk away with a better outlook on police officers,” says Office Jody Bullard, who is assigned to the Dallas Independent School District.

End Dogfighting In Connecticut Now

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Anyone who knows me at all knows I have a temper. Anyone who knows me at all also knows that I have absolutely, positively, no tolerance whatsoever for criminal activity targeting children, the elderly, or animals.

So imagine how I felt when I read a January 21 article on ctpost.com detailing the prevalence of dogfighting in Connecticut. Let’s just say I wasn’t very happy. In fact, it made my blood boil.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no place for this vicious, cruel, and barbaric activity at all — much less in the 21st century. The time to end it is now.

The harsh reality of dogfighting in Connecticut

Jessica Rubin, a state animal advocate and UConn law professor quoted in the article,  has researched dogfighting charges in Connecticut. While doing so, she  found that 110 people were charged with “dogfighting related offenses” here between 2007 and 2017.

Among other things, Rubin told ctppost.com that  there were no charges in some years and multiple charges in others. She also noted that the activity seems to be most prevalent in areas with the greatest population densities.

“The issues include extreme cruelty, criminal behavior, gambling, giving dogs unauthorized medicines and violence,” Rubin said. “Children are exposed to the offenses and it compounds the dogfighting.”

One of the many dogs available for adoption at a local shelter a few years ago.

Meanwhile, dogs that are lucky enough to survive and escape their ordeal, “usually end up in shelters around the state in hopes that law-abiding dog lovers will adopt them and end their nightmare with care and love.”

And then there are those who aren’t so fortunate.

“When they’re no longer profitable to dog fighters — or if they don’t show enough ‘fighting spirit’— they’re typically killed in atrocious ways, including by being used as ‘bait dogs,’ drowned, electrocuted, beaten or hanged,” Martin Mersereau, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told ctpost.com. “There are no winners in this sickening blood sport, only abject criminals who represent the very worst of human nature,” Mersereau added.

Freedom’s story

Two years ago, someone found a badly wounded dog — later named Freedom by rescuers —  “wandering on Brushy Plains Road in Branford covered in scars and injuries.”

His story is also chronicled in the ctpost.com article.

According to the account, officials at the Branford Animal Shelter concluded the wounds were the result of dogfighting. They also determined that  Freedom whose teeth were filed down so he couldn’t inflict damage on other dogs,  was probably used as a “bait” dog. As such, it would have been his “job” to  trigger attacks by combatants.

“Based on the wounds, this dog definitely took the brunt of whatever has been going on,” shelter director Laura Burban then told the New Haven Register. “What we can see is that it looks like his feet were tied together and he was used as the bait dog for other dogs to attack him,” she said.

Freedom is not alone…

Currently, dogfighting is not only illegal throughout the United States, but it is also a felony  in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Even so, Freedom’s story is not unique.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) statistics cited in the ctpost.com story, there are tens of thousands of dog fight organizers across the country that force hundreds of thousands of dogs to brutally train and fight for sport.

Over the last eight years, the organization says, it has assisted with 200 dogfighting cases in 24 states and has helped rescue and investigate nearly 5,000 victims of dogfighting.

Last year alone, the ASPCA says it directly rescued more than 400 animals from dogfighting rings across 12 states.

“Through our extensive work with law enforcement agencies nationwide, we know that organized dogfighting is taking place in every type of community across the country, causing unimaginable pain and suffering for the animals involved,” Stacy Wolf, senior vice president of ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group told ctpost.com.

And that is unacceptable.

The Efficacy Of U.S. Pet Protection Laws

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As most of you know, I am passionate about two aspects of the law. One is animal law and the other is criminal law. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve done a lot of posts on both topics in this forum.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Specifically, I have written about the steps that state lawmakers across the United States have taken to protect companion animals and punish the people who abuse, hoard and neglect them. I must admit, there have been a lot of positive developments since I created this website and started posting here in 2015.

But of course, that’s just my opinion. Let’s see what the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has to say about the implementation and efficacy of animal protection laws across the United States as of 2018.

How the states were judged

Last month, the ALDF released its annual Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report , which includes “the best and worst US states and territories when it comes to animal protection.”

Along with the results, American Veterinarian.com published an article explaining how the states were judged. As reported on that website, the ALDF’s criteria included “19 aspects of animal protection, including 5 new categories: the definition of ‘animal,’ courtroom animal advocate programs, laws that allow individuals to rescue dogs from hot parked cars, civil nuisances abatement, and breed-specific legislation.”

Based on its assessment, the ALDF determined that the U.S. as a whole is making progress — but there is still room for improvement.

“Every year, we see more states enacting broader legal protections for animals,” ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells told American Veterinarian.com. “We have a long way to go until animals are fully protected under the legal system as they deserve, especially in the lowest-ranked states.…But as this year’s Ranking Report shows, step by step we as a nation are improving how the law treats animals.”

How the states ranked

Starting with the good news, the top states were:

  1. Illinois
  2. Oregon
  3. Maine
  4. Colorado
  5. Massachusetts

“With the creation of laws banning the sexual assault of animals, Louisiana (7) and Massachusetts (5) were among the most improved states in 2018. Besides Massachusetts, each of the 5 best states has remained consistent with the previous years,” the American Veterinarian.com article notes.

On the other hand, these were the states that ranked near or at the bottom of the list:

46. New Mexico
47. Wyoming
48. Iowa
49. Mississippi
50. Kentucky

Of particular concern is the lack of progress in Kentucky, which was ranked last for the second consecutive year. Specifically, the ALDF’s 2018 report found that, despite its allowance for increased penalties for repeat abusers and/or animal hoarders, Kentucky has not made any significant changes in the following areas:

  • Adequate definitions or standards of basic care
  • Restriction of animal ownership after a conviction
  • Mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction

One of the most obvious deficiencies in Kentucky’s animal safety regulations is its lack in felony penalties for animal cruelty (including neglect, sexual assault, or abandonment). Furthermore, Kentucky is still the only state that precludes veterinarians from reporting suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or fighting.

To make matters worse, there are no statutory provisions for post-conviction restitution or forfeiture, except in cases involving horses. In other words, owners who have harmed their pet don’t have to surrender it — so they really aren’t being held fully accountable for their actions.

Why do we need animal protection laws?

Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t like animals — and to them all of this is pointless. In most cases, they argue that people are more important, and lawmakers should concentrate on addressing “more important issues” like healthcare, gun violence and climate change.

Personally, I have a different perspective — one gained during 21 years covering cops and courts in three states. You see, I have written about my share of violent crime. And I know for a fact that the types of people who commit these acts have no qualms about harming animals to begin with.

So, yes animal protection laws do matter. In fact they matter a lot.

Federal Lawmakers Seek Animal Cruelty Ban

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“a bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers from Florida is trying to close a gaping loophole in federal law.”

If there’s one thing I won’t discuss in this forum, it’s politics. For one thing, I hate politics. For another, it’s too risky to discuss politics in the context of work — and since this is my business website — well, the less said, the better.

Having said that, of course there are exceptions to every rule. And the only exception I’ll make to the one I just mentioned is that I’ll continue to write about local, state and federal legislation when our duly elected representatives actually do something constructive. Believe it or not, that actually happens every once in a while.

A case in point

Take a recent New York Times article about federal efforts to crack down on animal abusers by creating a new bill called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. In it, the author, Niraj Chokshi explains that a “a bipartisan pair of congressional lawmakers from Florida is trying to close a gaping loophole in federal law.”

As it now stands, anyone who documents (records) themselves abusing an animal can be charged under federal law. However, they will not face federal charges for the actual commission of the abuse.

If the new legislation passes, however, offenders convicted of “intentionally crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise seriously harming an animal” would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison. Within this context it is important to note that he bill “includes exceptions for, among other things, hunting, killing animals for food, scientific research, euthanizing animals, husbandry and veterinary care.”

The back story

In addition to providing a detailed explanation of the proposed legislation, Chokshi also explains why it was created.

As Chokshi tells it, the Humane Society of the United States became aware of and started looking into “crush videos,” approximately 20 years ago. In these videos, “animals are tortured or killed, often under a woman’s foot, in the service of a sexual fetish.” Objects or insects are sometimes used instead of animals in some cases, Chokshi adds.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

At any rate, the Humane Society contacted authorities after buying this type of video from someone in California, only to find that there were no adequate remedies under existing laws. Meanwhile, the documentation of animal abuse was increasing because of the Internet.

In search of answers, the then-county district attorney approached former Representative Elton Gallegly. He  in turn introduced a bill banning the production or sale of such videos. With little opposition, it was signed into law in late 1999.

“In 2010, however, the Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds,” Chokshi reports.

In response, Gallegly created a new version of the bill, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which became the law that the recently introduced bipartisan legislation is designed to supplement.

Is this really necessary?

Currently, there are felony provisions in animal cruelty laws in all 50 states. So while the creation of a federal animal cruelty law may seem unnecessary, proponents say it’s an important step in the right direction.

First, as Sara Amundson, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the legislative and political arm of the Humane Society told the Times, it would address cases in which abused animals are taken across state lines. Secondly, it would help in cases where there are limited resources.

“It’s oftentimes the scenario where states don’t have the resources or they don’t have the knowledge in a situation to be able to carry these animal cruelty cases to prosecution,” Amundson said.

Finally, proponents hope it will serve as an effective deterrent because it is a known fact that animal abuse can often be a precursor to the commission of violent acts against people.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Is it necessary? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

ASPCA vet offers insight into forensic veterinary science

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Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Sometimes, the most interesting information on the Internet can be found in another blog. So when I came across this Q&A on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website, I thought it was definitely worth sharing.

In the post, the ASPCA’s director of veterinary forensics shared a glimpse into the world of forensic veterinary science and explained its importance.

Animal CSI

I suppose you could think of it as crime scene investigation in animal cruelty and similar cases. Of course, that’s not what Dr. Rachel Touroo said. But I think it’s the best way to sum up what she does.

Here’s how she explained it.

“A Forensic Veterinarian’s job is to identify, collect and assess evidence from animals and their environment.  I use veterinary medical knowledge to put together the pieces of a puzzle to try to answer the questions asked of me by law enforcement and the courts in an unbiased and objective manner.”

Because her responsibilities are so varied, Touroo said she faces different challenges every day. One day she might be in the lab, the next day she might be in the field and the day after that she might be teaching.

“Frequently, I can also be found in my office drafting a forensic veterinary statement of my findings from the latest case, or in a classroom teaching third-year veterinary students how to look for signs of intentional cruelty,” Touroo said. “I’m also called upon to testify as an expert witness in cases across the country.”

Rewarding and important work

Touroo has a background in “animal welfare” and got involved in forensic veterinary science when she took a brand new job in Virginia. As she recalls, the state needed a veterinarian to “specifically address puppy mills and animal fighting in the state due to recent undercover puppy mill investigations and a highly publicized dog fighting case.”

“I had no idea what veterinary forensic sciences was when I accepted the position, but I quickly found myself immersed in the discipline,” Touroo said.

For Touroo, the work is rewarding and important. Citing the link between violence committed against animals with violence committed against people, Touroo says by doing her job properly she can not only prevent further cruelty to animals but keep people safe, too.

“While I love what I do, it is disheartening to know this job is necessary. I choose to focus on the impact we have and the positive outcomes. It’s incredibly uplifting to see an animal rescued from abuse and neglect find a loving home,” Touroo says. “If I had my way, I would put myself out of work, but until that time comes, I’m proud to be a voice for these victims.”

This New York law is for the dogs (and cats)

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Technically it’s not a law… yet. At this point, it’s still a proposed law, or more accurately a bill.

Some say that it has little chance of being passed. I say it will be a horrible injustice if it doesn’t.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The legislation that I’m referring to is called “Kirby and Quigley’s Law,” and it would punish anyone who hurts or kills a companion animal during the commission of another crime. Punishment upon conviction would be a $5,000 fine and two years behind bars in addition to incarceration for the original crime.

‘Poster pups’

According to media accounts, Denise Krohn, whose dogs were shot and killed when someone burglarized her home last year, “hopes to gain some measure of justice by making her pets the poster pups” for the bill.

“It’s just not right,” Krohn told the New York media. “I don’t care about the TVs and other stuff. What hurts us every day is losing our dogs.”

What makes matters worse for  Krohn is knowing that the perpetrator(s) will likely go unpunished for killing her dogs as things now stand. As the police working the case reportedly told her, “if someone is caught, they would likely get 25 years in jail for burglary, but no additional punishment for killing the dogs.”

On the other hand, if “Kirby and Quigley’s Law” does pass, experts that spoke with the New York media said it would become “one of the toughest animal-cruelty charges” in the United States.

Jim Tedisco is the New York state senator who introduced the legislation in 2012 — long before the burglars that targeted Krohn’s home killed her dogs. His impetus for doing so was another case, in which drug smugglers used dogs to move their product. Although the perpetrators in that case were ultimately convicted on drug charges, they were never charged with animal cruelty.

“Attorneys said it had nothing to do with cruelty, they were just smuggling heroin,” Tedisco told News 4 New York. “What this bill does is make it clear that if you harm a companion animal while committing another crime, you face an additional penalty.”

A reluctant advocate

Passage of the bill is hardly a slam dunk. Critics, including State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, say it is unnecessary. Existing cruelty laws are sufficient, they maintain.

Krohn begs to differ. She’s reportedly written numerous letters to state lawmakers — and  the retired teacher vows to keep it up until “Kirby and Quigley’s Law” becomes a reality.

“I never thought of myself as an animal activist,” she said. “I just want to do what’s right.”

Crime and punishment

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So here’s a question for you.

How desperate does someone have to be in order to steal quarters from coin-operated washers and dryers? And how much do you think you could get?

Ok. So that’s really two questions. And yes, I am serious. Someone really did that.

According to published reports, Alisha Russell of Syracuse, NY, allegedly stole more than $14,000 worth of quarters from machines in an apartment complex in upstate New York. Russell, who once worked as the leasing agent at the complex where the thefts occurred was recently arrested on grand larceny charges.

Russell reportedly “had a key to the machines and regularly collected money from them as part of her job.”  Police say she lost her job for unrelated reasons before the investigation into the coin thefts — which occurred over a 10-month period — began.

Hmm…

How much is that little doggy in the window?

In other news, a Long Island man was also arrested on several charges including grand larceny and identity theft last month.

Police caught up with Victor Franco, 23, after he allegedly used a fake credit card to buy a puppy from a Merrick, NY, pet store. And this wasn’t just any puppy. It was a French bulldog that cost more than $3,000. In fact, the grand total was $3,592.21.

At the time of Franco’s arrest, police said the dog “still hadn’t been returned” to the shop, and added that it would be returned if they found it.

Franco also stands accused of using a fake credit card to buy a cell phone worth more than $200.

What is wrong with people?

To summarize, two people in two different parts of New York were arrested on grand larceny charges after they allegedly committed two very different crimes.

In one case, someone allegedly stole $14,000 worth of quarters from coin-operated washers and dryers at an apartment complex in upstate New York. In the other case, someone allegedly used a fake credit card to buy an expensive puppy dog from a Long Island pet store.

All of which leads to yet another simple — but rhetorical — question.

What is wrong with people?

And on that note, have a great weekend everyone…