Doorbell Video Opens Door to Recovery for Traumatized Dog

December 23, 2020

Bella laying next to house steps
On January 23, 2020, a tragic and stomach-churning scene of animal abuse unfolded and was all captured on camera by a Ring® doorbell. In the video, a large, leashed dog is kicked hard three times in the abdomen by her handler, who then stomps on her upper torso. With each audible kick, she cries, then yelps loudly before the man forcibly drags her down the street. She hobbles behind the man, stopping at times, cowering before being jerked out of the camera’s scope of vision.

The vicious attack took place under the streetlights of a Staten Island neighborhood, just steps away from one home’s front porch. The homeowner viewed the disturbing doorbell camera footage and contacted her local police precinct immediately. NYPD Detective Louise SanFilippo opened an investigation and was able to locate the dog, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois named Bella, the next day.  Shortly thereafter, the man seen abusing Bella on the video was located and arrested. 

NYPD Sergeant Matthew Shaw, who works in the 122nd Precinct where the incident occurred, heard about the case and was concerned about Bella.

“I asked if she had a new home—her case really touched my heart,” says Shaw.

Shaw, who has a four-year-old German Shepherd named Jack, saw the video and offered to foster Bella. It wouldn’t be long before he got the chance.

Bella after ebeing rescued

Caring for Bella

Initially taken to Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services, an ASPCA partner clinic, Bella was transported to the ASPCA on January 25. Dr. Jasmine Bruno, an ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian, used the Ring video to focus her initial exam of Bella on the areas where she was kicked. Not surprisingly, Bella expressed discomfort when Dr. Bruno examined her abdomen.

“She didn’t have the discomfort on follow-up exams after that,” Dr. Bruno says. “She may have had a soft tissue injury or bruising on her initial examination.”

Bella with a vet

Pain medication helped ease Bella’s discomfort. Dr. Bruno also noted that Bella had a lame left foreleg as well as surgery repair scars consistent with injuries from being hit by a car.

Dr. Bruno eventually learned that Bella originated from Mississippi where she had sustained pelvic fractures in May 2019. Because her previous owners couldn’t afford her veterinary care, she was relinquished and transported to a rescue group in the Northeast. How she ultimately ended up in Staten Island still remains unknown.

Dr. J’mai Gayle, Director of Surgery, attributed Bella’s lameness to biceps tendonitis, a common cause of forelimb lameness in medium-to-large dogs.

“Our biggest goal was making sure that her lame leg wasn't causing any pain,” explains Dr. Melissa Toulouse, a Veterinarian at the ASPCA Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment (CARE), where Bella spent time. “Although she walked with a limp, we determined she wasn’t in pain because of her old injury.”

The ASPCA medical team was also concerned about Bella being overweight.

“Excess weight can really put a lot of stress on previously injured limbs and joints,” says Dr. Toulouse.  

To complicate matters further, Bella was reluctant to walk outside, making it hard for her to get the exercise she needed to lose weight. She also feared men.

Bella at the ASPCA

“She’s a perfect example of how behavior can directly impact physical health,” says Dr. Toulouse.

“Bella’s behavior was definitely our biggest challenge,” adds Dr. Danielle Armato, Medical Supervisor at the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center (ARC).

Focusing on Behavior Modification and Foster Care

The ASPCA Behavior team created personalized behavior modification plans for Bella that included building her confidence through social facilitation with other dogs as well as conditioning her to feel comfortable outdoors.

“We pulled out all the stops to help Bella relearn how to see the world around her,” says Brittani Rae Hrehorovich, Behavior Specialist in ARC and CARE.

When Bella’s kennel proved to be too stressful, the team set up an in-office foster with Kris Lindsay, Senior Director of ARC and CARE. She also spent time in a foster home and at a facility outside the city.

Bella in a swimming pool

When Bella’s owner formally relinquished her to the ASPCA in July, Bella needed a foster caregiver. Knowing Bella was more comfortable with another dog, the Behavior Team already knew they had a perfect match, Sergeant Shaw.

Bella Finds a Home...and a Friend

Despite signing up just to foster, Sergeant Shaw and his wife, Emily, knew they were ready for another dog.

Bella at her new home

For the first few days, Bella cowered under the couple’s coffee table and wouldn’t go into the backyard.

“We just gave her time and she eventually warmed up to us,” says Shaw. “Within a week she bonded with Jack and started playing with her toys.”

Bella with her new sibling out side

Shaw credits Jack with Bella’s quick acclimation.

“She probably would not have come as far without Jack,” he says. “He gives her confidence to go outside or on a walk. And she doesn’t seem to know she has the use of only three legs.”

Bella abd Jack in front of a christmas tree

As she got more comfortable, Bella soon claimed the couple’s ottoman as her “throne.”

“I didn’t have the heart to tell her to get off,” Shaw says. “She’s so sweet and gentle. All she wants in life is affection and food.”

The couple soon decided to adopt Bella, making it official on October 9.

Sergeant Shaw says doorbell cameras like the one that captured Bella’s perpetrator, have become valuable tools in fighting crime.

“Ring cameras get audio as well as visuals, so you can hear what is happening as well as see it,” he says.

In Bella’s case, technology enabled her to experience a new life full of compassion, not cruelty.

Bella in front of a christmas tree