Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City Tackles Animal Abuse; Brutal Crime Spurs Officials to Dedicate Resources with Aim of Protecting Pets - and People

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City Tackles Animal Abuse; Brutal Crime Spurs Officials to Dedicate Resources with Aim of Protecting Pets - and People

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS - People who abuse animals often go on to commit crimes against people, officials say, which is why the police department is dedicating an officer to investigate animal abuse cases full time.

Officer Louis Naes, a nine-year veteran of the force, has become the department's first animal abuse investigator and a member of the new Animal Abuse Task Force. It includes the circuit attorney's office, mayor's office, the health department and Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

Officials are expected to announce formation of the group today. It comes nine days before Darick Dashon Stallworth, 31, is to be sentenced for torturing, mutilating and killing five dogs in a vacant building earlier this year.

Randy Grim, founder of Stray Rescue, which provides dog rescue and shelter operations for the city, said Stallworth's case - the first felony animal abuse conviction in the city he can remember - provided impetus for more police involvement.

"This is a pivotal moment for police understanding that these are violent crimes that need to be taken seriously," Grim said.

Police Chief Dan Isom did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

City officials are using about $35,000 from the city's corrections budget to help fund Naes' salary. The extra money comes from a new director's more efficient use of funds, said Kara Bowlin, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay.

Naes has spent his first five days on the job meeting with animal advocates and others to determine how they can work together. He said he spent Monday morning with Humane Society executives.

Designating a police officer for animal abuse cases is somewhat rare across the country, and comes at a time when St. Louis police are shifting officers to address a 19 percent increase in aggravated assaults with firearms. But some law enforcement officials think it pays off in terms of human - as well as animal - victims. …

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