When the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced its partnership with the New York Police Department in January of 2014, locals were, understandably, skeptical.
A year into the experiment, the Voice checked in with the ASPCA to find out how things are going.
Not bad, as it turns out.
In 2013 the ASPCA’s humane-law-enforcement officers made 42 arrests and treated 133 animals.
Last year, with the weight of the NYPD behind it, the animal-welfare group recorded 134 arrests and tended to 422 animals.
“Now, instead of 17 humane-law-enforcement officers, in effect there are over 30,000 uniformed NYPD officers with eyes and ears responding to animal-cruelty calls in the city,” Howard Lawrence, senior director of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group, tells the Voice. Lawrence, himself a former member of the NYPD, says the alliance solved the ASPCA’s problem with capacity, as its officers simply could not cover the same ground as the NYPD.
— NYPD 49th Precinct (@NYPD49Pct) February 3, 2015
In August 2013, then–ASPCA spokesman Bret Hopman told the New York Times that in a typical year, the agency investigated about 4,000 complaints of animal cruelty and averaged 50 to 60 arrests in New York. National ASPCA president and CEO Matt Bershadker told the Times the agency was “not getting to cases for days or weeks.”
Lawrence tells the Voice that the NYPD had frequently partnered with the ASPCA in the past. But expanding the size and scope of the operations, he says, required “significant planning and discussion.”
In September 2013, the ASPCA launched a four-month pilot phase of the partnership. Lawrence says the test run was a “huge success” — the NYPD responded to more than 800 animal-related emergency calls and made eight arrests, while ASPCA veterinarians treated more than 30 animals in those cases — so it was decided that the NYPD would henceforth take the lead in answering animal-cruelty complaints.
Lawrence says the project is expanding. Earlier this year the ASPCA began training more than 200 law-enforcement personnel at the Police Academy in College Point. Participants range from detectives to precinct special-operations lieutenants.
Recent successes include the rescue of a six-month-old puppy that was beaten with a shovel and buried in the snow on January 30. Police officers arrested alleged perpetrator Raul Cruz and charged the 43-year-old with aggravated cruelty to animals, torturing and injuring animals, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
Another notable case: the January 22 discovery of a malnourished three-year-old male pit bull mix in a zipped suitcase. A passerby notified two patrol officers about the bag, which was sitting outside the Melrose public housing project in the South Bronx. The dog had been “deprived of food and water, then discarded on a city curb as if it were garbage,” Bershadker stated in a press release. The agency has offered a $20,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
Days after its call for news regarding the starved Bronx pup, the ASPCA disclosed its effort to create a data-tracking system to trail animal abuse in the city, with the goal of helping the NYPD find “animal-cruelty hot spots” and “citywide animal-abuse patterns.”