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sciri
02-02-2010, 08:44 AM
Suppose a person's pet is murdered and the police suspect she (the owner) did it, would they take her in/book her? I don't have pets so I don't know much about the law around it, but would it be treated as "murder" or is the pet considered the owner's personal "belongings" and hence the police wouldn't do anything about it?

Thanks!

blacbird
02-02-2010, 10:27 AM
It would definitely not be "murder". It could be "animal cruelty".

caw

Collectonian
02-02-2010, 10:54 AM
It would generally be considered animal cruelty, versus murder (unfortunately). What the police would or wouldn't do about strongly depends on the actual location. In New York, for example, where the animal control folks are full fledge cops with guns, they will arrest the person. In more rural areas that may just have basic animal control service, they may not do anything at all.

Polenth
02-02-2010, 11:19 AM
It depends on where you live and what kind of animal. In most countries with animal protection laws, it's illegal to torture an animal to death if it's a species covered by the laws.

Generally, invertebrates don't get legal protection (except cephalopods in some countries). Fish and reptiles sometimes get protection and sometimes don't. Mammals and birds almost always get protection.

It isn't usually illegal to kill a pet though. It'd have to be clear the animal was ill-treated or tortured. Otherwise, people wouldn't be able to raise animals for food. Nor would you be able to take an animal to be 'put to sleep' at the vets.

justAnotherWriter
02-02-2010, 05:18 PM
In NYC they would probably not arrest unless the circumstances were something way worse than normal. But really, all you have to do to thwart the ASPCA cops is not answer your door. The typical course of action is a summons. If an arrest is made, the perp is released pretty much immediately and gets a court date.

According to the law, animals are property.

However, god forbid you should try to bury your pet on your own property in NYC, then the might of the law will descend upon you with righteous fury.

You have to love NYC.

(no, you don't, really)

sciri
02-02-2010, 06:22 PM
Thanks for the help. My story takes place in a rural area in Colorado, and the pet is a cat. I'm thinking they would take her in for questioning but then let her go because they don't have much on her... Would that fly? Thanks!

Snowstorm
02-02-2010, 06:35 PM
Maybe sciri. I can't recall the state that a person could kill an animal legally as long as they did it humanely--which makes sense.

Collectonian
02-02-2010, 06:51 PM
I could only see them taking her in for questioning if they suspected her of something else and just wanted to harass her, and even then it might be a stretch. If it were someone else's animal, it would be more likely, or an animal involved in a domestic dispute. Now, if she filed a report that her animal was killed, then they suspect she did it, they might question her regarding the filing of a false report, but again, primarily if they just wanted to harass her.

sciri
02-02-2010, 06:55 PM
So then you think they wouldn't do anything, just eye her suspiciously, maybe have her name down in case she comes up for something next time?

veinglory
02-02-2010, 06:58 PM
In many states you cannot legally kill your pet, they must be euthanised by a veterinarian.

Collectonian
02-02-2010, 07:18 PM
It depends on the circumstances, but in a rural area especially, probably not. Colorado statutes do not consider it cruelty to kill an animal, unless it is done "needlessly" (http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/html/cruelty_law_al-mt.html#Colorado). Part of the issue with animal cruelty laws, however, is the books make them sound like serious crimes, but all too often they are ignored and just minimally enforced, especially outside of larger cities where there is usually less publicity over cruelty cases. It might be good for the OP to search some Colorado newspapers for animal cruelty stories to see what was done in those.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 07:24 PM
In Colorado she would still need to use a method from the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, other methods would likely be deemed cruel. They might procede with an investigation as a method to look more into what she is up to, if they are suspicious.

hammerklavier
02-02-2010, 07:33 PM
They would probably ask their questions there, poke around (as much as they can without getting a warrent, so as much as your character allows them to) maybe ask any neighbors that are convienient; then, not finding enough evidence, would drop the matter.

This obviously differs from murder investigations where any dead person, if cause of death is not clear, receives an autopsy. If it looks like murder, then a full scale investigation is opened. With animals, you generally have to have either 1) a witness, or 2) obvious signs of neglect or torture.

sciri
02-02-2010, 08:30 PM
Thanks, that's very helpful.

abctriplets
02-02-2010, 09:08 PM
They would probably ask their questions there, poke around (as much as they can without getting a warrent, so as much as your character allows them to) maybe ask any neighbors that are convienient; then, not finding enough evidence, would drop the matter.

Yeah, especially since you said this was a rural neighborhood, and the police didn't have much in the way of evidence. And the fact that its a cat. Why would the police care? Someone had reported that her cat had mysteriously vanished? That's sort of what cats do.

Now if someone reported seeing her with a cat on a butcher's block in the backyard, then they'd poke around for evidence (but even then, without a bloody mess, it'd be one neighbor's word against another...over a cat).

Of course, if she answers the door in a new calico fur hat...

sciri
02-02-2010, 09:13 PM
Now if someone reported seeing her with a cat on a butcher's block in the backyard, then they'd poke around for evidence (but even then, without a bloody mess, it'd be one neighbor's word against another...over a cat).



Actually, she calls the police herself because she finds her house in a bloody mess... and then the police finds the murdered cat and evidence against her...

veinglory
02-02-2010, 09:23 PM
If a woman, especially living alone called cops because her house was messed up and her pet killed--it would have to be pretty strong evidence pointing to her for the police to think it was not a lover, ex or stalker.

sciri
02-02-2010, 09:33 PM
Good point. Suppose it's not that strong, but then there's nothing else pointing to lover/stalker... then they grill her a little in her house and then drop it? And in the meantime, because it's a small town, rumors start going around about her being a lunatic... I think it's reasonable, right?

Thanks.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 09:35 PM
IMHO any experienced cops are going to assume its some guy in her life, or local freak. It is just so commonplace, where as violent animal abuse by woman is relatively rare. Part of the evidence that it isn't her is that she called them.

Canotila
02-02-2010, 10:29 PM
If she reported her cat's death under the circumstances you describe, then the police would be investigating a case of some dangerous lunatic breaking and entering, vandalizing, and animal cruelty.

Animals are property under law, so if someone kills your animal they only have to reimburse you the monetary value of the animal. The only exception are service animals (like a seizure alert animal, seeing eye dog, police dog, bomb sniffing dog, etc.) Harming/killing a service animal is a felony in most states.

As for the rumors, that's pretty reasonable regardless of what the police think. If she's kind of an outsider in the town, and especially if people were already saying weird things about her. It could just start with the neighbors seeing a bunch of cops descend on her home and roll from there.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 10:47 PM
I would suggest considering a scenario where she comes home, fimds a horror show, screams--and maybe a passerby calls the police while she is still in shock? Then she might look a little more guilty?

Collectonian
02-02-2010, 11:13 PM
Have to echo the others. Unless these are the worlds most inept cops or they have a personal vendetta against her, they would not look at her, certainly not right off the bat. They would investigate it seriously as a breaking/entering, possible stalking. Now neighbors gossipping...well, people do love to do that and twist anything they can, so they could do that.

If its important to the story that the police begin to doubt the incident at the house was legit, only thing I could think of would be someone dropping an "anonymous" tip later saying they are wasting their time because she did it herself for X, Y reason and they know because they saw her killing the cat or something.

abctriplets
02-03-2010, 01:15 AM
I'm still having trouble with this (though believe the solution is out there). If she has cops in the house questioning her, her kitchen is covered in the blood of her own dead cat, I still don't see rumors surfacing in the neighborhood that she did it herself. Rumors would either be a stalker on the lose, or a pet-murderer is out there and people should keep their pets inside. There'd have to be a lot of other non-related evidence for the town to paint her as a lunatic.

And that's just the town. I'm not sure what it would take for the police to consider her a suspect. The posited scenario of her coming home and screaming, and a neighbor calling the cops would still end the same way.

Maybe if she's an attention seeker. The boy who cried wolf sort of scenario. Repeated calls to the cops. Bigfoot sightings. Claims her exhusband was abducted. Etc. Or similar scenario where she suffers from munchausen syndrome. Only now you have a wanton act of animal cruelty?

sciri
02-03-2010, 01:38 AM
Yes, sorry, I've skipped a little of the details because this is just one scene in the middle of a ~100K novel, but yes, she is that kind of person. And this is supposed to be the last straw at which she loses her credibility....

Snowstorm
02-03-2010, 01:41 AM
If your story occurs in a specific (real) place, have you considered calling the police or sheriff's departments? You can toss them the scenario and they can tell you, from their perspective, what likely would happen.

sciri
02-03-2010, 02:01 AM
If your story occurs in a specific (real) place, have you considered calling the police or sheriff's departments? You can toss them the scenario and they can tell you, from their perspective, what likely would happen.


Ha ha ha... Last time I did that -- through email -- I got a phone call the next day saying, "Dear Sciri, I understand this is for a totally fictitious situation, mhm?" And even though it was a recorded message on my AM, I could see the lady at the other end of the line eying me suspiciously..... Scared the heck out of me, especially given that I had NOT left my phone number in the email, which means they looked me up! Just for asking an *innocent* question... Well, maybe it wasn't so innocent, but I did say it was for a novel I was writing...

Anyways, no, sorry, too shy to do that again. I'm a wuss.
Thanks for the suggestion though, it sure is the most sensible thing to do.

Snowstorm
02-03-2010, 02:21 AM
Toss away the shyness! I'd wager they get requests to answer weird questions.

Heck, I stopped into the police chief's office and later talked with a detective about my murder mystery. It's not a big deal. Plus, I got some great ideas for my story AND they steered me away from some incorrect info I had that would have screwed up my story.

Shoot. Give 'em a call. Ya never know, it might make their day.

Collectonian
02-03-2010, 03:03 AM
As long as you're polite in your request, and don't ask during a busy time, most police departments are happy to help. Many have liasons for such questions. Check the city/county website if its a real city. Can also check the ask the Experts listing: http://wgaw.org/content/default.aspx?id=165 (police listed is for California though) or email a law professor at a nearby college.

Mr Flibble
02-03-2010, 03:21 AM
Ha ha ha... Last time I did that -- through email -- I got a phone call the next day saying, "Dear Sciri, I understand this is for a totally fictitious situation, mhm?"

Ow!

My local polices are great - they answer all sorts of odd questions. I think it beats getting phone calls about 'My neighbour cut down my hedge!' and stuff. I've actually gone into the police station a couple of times to ask about stuff for future projects and they call all their mates out from the back and we have a big ol' chat.

Probably this wouldn't work somewhere big though...but yeah most policey people I've met actually love to talk about it ( the bot sthey can talk about obviously). The anecdotes are great fodder for incidents in books btw. Just buy them beer :D

abctriplets
02-03-2010, 04:06 AM
I'd be terrified after calling them that a neighbor's pet would go missing...

archerjoe
02-03-2010, 06:07 PM
Here's an example in the news (http://cbs3.com/local/New.Jersey.Parrot.2.1466110.html)


A New Jersey man accused of shooting and killing his African gray parrot with a BB gun because its screeching annoyed him while he was watching a NASCAR race on TV has been indicted on an animal cruelty charge.

sciri
02-04-2010, 06:03 AM
Interesting... Thanks!