Rage of humans can become pain, injury for a pet
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News September 4, 2012 8:16PM
Dr. Lynette Greenwood examines Domino, who had an injured leg, at Emergency Vet Services in St. Charles, Ill., on Monday, August 27, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:39PM
ST. CHARLES — After throwing their Chihuahua against a wall, the callers sought advice when the dog didn’t move for two days. As an emergency services veterinarian, Dr. Lynette Greenwood responds to questions like that, and treats abused animals. In DuPage County, veterinarians such as Greenwood work with prosecutors and law enforcement so abused animals, and those who injure them, are not overlooked.
“The majority of the cases I have seen are things like animals being thrown, beaten, dragged behind cars,” said Greenwood, owner of Emergency Veterinary Services in St. Charles.
Working with police and fire departments, the clinic provides a menu of duties ranging from basic first aid and surgery and to court testimony.
Greenwood has testified three times and said most abuse cases involve someone hurting an animal that belongs to someone else. For instance, an argument with a roommate might lead to an abuser targeting that person’s pet.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said studies show a correlation between violence against animals and violence against humans.
“There are studies out there that have shown that pet abuse is a good predictor of domestic violence, and oftentimes what happens is abusers are kind of using the animal to try and control their (human) victim,” Berlin said.
Greenwood said the dynamic between the humans and the pets in a household can include negative feelings.
“Usually it’s that the abuser resents the animal, and then takes that out on the animal,” she said. “I have not encountered too much premeditated abuse. We see some violence like rage, and usually it is taken out on the most vulnerable family member, which often is the pet.”
Two weeks ago, Glendale Heights police charged David Hritz, 39, with misdemeanor and felony counts of domestic battery and cruelty to animals. According to a press release from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Glendale Heights resident allegedly hit his roommate, then allegedly killed his own pet cockatiel by throwing it against a wall and then stabbing it.
Abused animals sometimes have no escape.
“As far as the law, animals are considered the property of the owner,” Greenwood explained. “It depends on the degree of cruelty.”
Berlin said a court order is required to remove an animal from an abusive home.
“It really depends on the circumstance,” he said. Factors weighing on the decision include prior history of animal abuse.
Greenwood emphasized that responsible pet owners hold companion animals to a completely different level of respect than those who hurt or kill animals do.
“I would like people to really realize that pets bring so much into our lives that it is unforgivable to treat them harshly,” she said.
While people who properly care for their companion animals — providing adequate food, shelter and compassion — may find any mistreatment of animals unacceptable, the law defines certain conditions that determine severity.
Berlin said misdemeanor cases “are pretty much (when an abuser will) starve or beat an animal but you don’t have the severe injury.” Felony charges may apply when serious injury or death occurs, he said.
Aside from resentment or rage that drive someone to injure an animal, ignorance is another factor.
Greenwood recalled treating a cat whose owner had attempted to castrate it himself using hot metal wires.
“That is obvious, blatant cruelty,” Greenwood said, adding the owner’s main concern was the cat’s foul smell.
“The wire had embedded itself into the scrotum and had fostered a horrible infection, and the cat was draining pus,” Greenwood said, adding the crime was reported to authorities and the man admitted he used a castration technique he had heard about.
Most of the time, police bring abused animals to the clinic; but in other instances, the owners make the visit with the animal. Reporting cruelty is necessary to stop repeat offenses, Greenwood and Berlin agreed.
Berlin said he sees six to eight cases of animal cruelty per year.
“In most of these cases we ask for an evaluation and any appropriate counseling because it is disturbing and is not normal behavior,” he said, adding that offenders are required to get a psychological evaluation and treatment at their own expense.
If cruelty is proven, then animals are placed in a custodial setting, such as county animal control, Greenwood noted.
Greenwood, who has worked in emergency animal care since 1996, said concern for the abused animals left untreated is often on her mind, but the good outcomes are rewarding.
“The cat was such a beautiful animal, and was very loving,” she said of the cat that suffered the castration abuse and was later placed in a responsible home where it began to thrive.
Other times, as with the Chihuahua thrown against the wall, an animal’s fate remains unknown.
“They called initially wanting advice and wanting the animal treated,” Greenwood said. “And they just never showed up.”