A disturbing new trend—“pet flipping”—has been getting a lot of attention this week.
Pet flipping involves a criminal picking up a pet, either by stealing the animal or claiming to be the pet parent of a missing pet, and then quickly selling the animal for a profit. Is your blood boiling yet? It gets worse!
According to Time, pet flipping is on the rise in cities including Kansas City, St. Louis and Indianapolis. The stolen dogs are often purebred and very valuable. In March, an Indianapolis man was arrested after a three-month investigation found he had been stealing dogs for years, mostly purebred German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.
“Many of these pets are housed in puppy mill-like conditions until they can be flipped—no food or water, caged and sick,” Dawn Contos, of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, said in an interview following the arrest.
It’s hard to understand how someone could beat an animal to death with a rock, and then proudly post a video of the grisly scene online. And yet, that’s exactly what one individual did. On December 3, ASPCA Agents arrested Jordan Heuer for attacking, injuring and causing the death of an opossum in a Queens, New York, park.
After the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) received complaints about a video of the incident posted online, the organization referred the issue to the ASPCA. We opened a criminal investigation.
“This is a disturbing case of violent abuse in which the suspect went out of his way to not only inflict pain on a helpless animal victim by smashing it repeatedly on its head with a rock, but to also record and post the brutal event on the Internet,” says Stacy Wolf, Vice President and Chief Counsel of the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement and Legal Advocacy departments.
Heuer, 18, was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty—under current New York law, felony animal cruelty charges can be brought only in cases involving companion animals. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
“This is precisely the sort of case that supports making the more callous acts that cause serious injury or death to wild animals into felony offenses,” Wolf notes, citing the extreme depravity of the opossum’s death.
We couldn’t agree more, and our Government Relations team is on the case. Bill Ketzer, ASPCA Senior Director of Government Relations for the Northeast, adds: “We will continue to work with legislators…to help shape laws to cover these types of especially heinous acts, regardless of whether the animal victim is a pet or a wild animal.”
Animal cruelty can happen anywhere. From hoarding to neglect, animals are placed in dangerous situations every single day. It’s an upsetting fact, but you can help prevent and stop animal cruelty from happening in your neighborhood.
Here are some steps you can take to be an advocate for animals:
Learn how to recognize signs of animal cruelty. There are often warning signs that are indicators that animals are being treated inhumanely. Some are more apparent than others, but by studying this list, you’ll know what to look out for.
Know who to call. Find out who is responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty codes in your town, county or state. This might include your local humane organization, animal control agency, taxpayer-funded animal shelter or police precinct.
Provide a detailed report. When reporting animal cruelty, it is best to give a concise statement about what you’ve witnessed or suspect. Include photos if at all possible. Don’t forget to include dates, times, and as many details as you can in your report. Keep copies for your own records and take notes!
Follow up. If you don't receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, don't be afraid to contact his supervisor and, if necessary, local government officials.
“Pit Bull.” There is no other breed of dog—or arguably, any other animal at all—whose mere mention can elicit such strong opinions. Try a word-associate game with your friends: Ask them what they think of when you say “Pit Bull.” Chances are that by the numbers, their responses will be more negative than positive. And it’s no wonder: No other type of dog is as widely banned from housing, legislated against, or incorrectly vilified by the media.
How did we get here? Pit Bulls were once widely considered ideal family pets—affectionate, loyal and gentle with children. But in recent years, these dogs have suffered tremendously from a combination of overbreeding, bad publicity and irresponsible owners. In reality, the overwhelming majority of Pits and Pit mixes are sweet goofballs who have gotten a very bad rap.
We’ve all had this conversation. A friend wants to bring home a new pet, and despite your best efforts, she’s set on buying from a pet store. How can you convince to her adopt, not shop? Here are four things we hear a lot, and how you can respond.
If I don’t buy that puppy in the pet store, who will? Pet stores usually sell their puppies quickly, and the store will slash the price on slow sellers until they’re bought. If people stop giving their business to pet stores that sell puppies by not purchasing puppies or anything else from them, ultimately, the puppy mills that they support will shut down from lack of demand. Hurray!
I want a purebred/a puppy, and they don’t end up in shelters. Some people want a Golden Retriever no matter what. Tell your pal that a one-of-a-kind mutt from a shelter is just as healthy and lovable, but that 25% of animals who enter shelters are purebreds, and that most breeds have a breed rescue—a group that re-homes dogs of a specific breed. Oh, and show them some videos of ASPCA puppies.
Shelter pets aren’t likely to be healthy. Explain to your pal the many physical and mental ailments puppy mill dogs—most of those in pet stores—can develop. Remind your pal that any animal can become sick or injured, regardless of where he came from, but that at a shelter you know up front if your new pet has any chronic health issues. Let your friend know that pet store dogs are actually somewhat more likely than shelter dogs to need vet care for an illness.
My friend has a shelter dog, and he’s hyper/destructive/scared/shy. Here’s where those of you with shelter pets can point to them and say, “Uh, what about Mr. Fluffy here? He’s a model dog and he came from a shelter.” Then point out that just like dogs from anywhere else, some shelter dogs have behavior issues to work on. Adopting from a shelter allows you to know exactly what you’re getting and whether you’re prepared to handle any issues that may arise.
Good luck! If you have other suggestions, share ‘em with us. And if you’ve persuaded someone to adopt, not shop, tell us about it.