WARNING: This story contains graphic content that some might find disturbing.
Discretion is advised. 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Lincoln, Thunda and Axle are three innocent canines in Connecticut with broken legs, gunshot wounds, and frostbitten paws. These are the faces that need your help to ensure justice is served for every suffering animal.

“We need to know who these people are in our communities so that we know not to adopt to them,” said Laura Burban, an animal control officer at the Dan Gosgrove Animal Shelter.

The number of animal abuse cases in Connecticut is staggering: more than 3,000 between 2011 to 2021. According to the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, 80% of those cases were either dismissed or not prosecuted.

“Some of the reasons we see a high rate of dismissals in animal cruelty cases is that often the crimes happen in private, in somebody’s home, without witnesses, and the victim [the animal] can’t speak for themselves,” said Jessica Rubin, associate dean for experimental education and clinical professor of law at UConn. 

Many go unprosecuted because the abuse is never reported.

“We have everything in Connecticut to make prosecutions of abusers successful,” said Richard Lynch, an attorney at LTKE. “But we need to use the laws we have. The way to do it – advocate for these animals.”

Lynch said it’s important people get involved and know that everyone can advocate for an animal that has been abused.

“Without an advocate, a case can flow through the system without a ripple, and in many cases, a serious offender will get accelerated rehabilitation,” he said.

That’s what happened to Desmond in 2012. His abuser confessed to Desmond’s gruesome murder yet was offered accelerated rehabilitation.

Burban had to witness the horrific aftermath.

“Desmond was strangled, killed, and thrown in a pond,” she said. “Those types of crimes should not receive accelerated rehabilitation.”

Once rehabilitation is complete, the accused’s record is expunged. That person could buy or adopt another dog with no record of abuse, which leaves many arguing for an animal abuse registry.

In 2018, Republican state Sen. Kevin Witkos proposed a bill to establish an animal abuse registry, citing that 65% of animal abusers have also been arrested for battery against a person. That bill never passed.

It might surprise you that one of the groups against abuse registries is the ASPCA. They claim registries are expensive to institute and maintain, are rarely utilized, and may decrease the prosecution of severe animal cruelty cases. They also fear it will create a vigilante mentality if registries are made public.

“In those cases where someone has strangled and killed a dog, and the necropsy shows the dog was systematically tortured over an extended period of time, we should not allow those people to obtain animals again. At all,” Burban said. 

What can you do to protect these animals? 

Recognize abuse, report it to the proper authorities, and know that all animals have a right to representation by an advocate.

Lawmakers can also update current animal laws and revisit the possibility of an abuse registry.

Here’s a look at some of the alleged animal abuse cases currently pending in the court system. 

Chesire police arrested Philip Lin for violating the conditions of his release stemming from an animal cruelty investigation. Officers found 28 dogs in his home. Some were deceased; others were sexually abused.

David Rivera Jr., a New Canaan police officer and owner of Black Rock Canine Training Facility, was arrested on animal abuse charges after 10 dogs were allegedly shot and killed.

Franco Bellini-Zabala was arrested after abuse to his Siberian Husky puppy was caught on camera in Wallingford.

Stranja Perrin and Anthony Singletary were arrested after they allegedly shot their German Shepherd.

All except Perrin are due in court next week.

Lynch and Burban also emphasized the importance of reporting abuse because animal cruelty is often linked to other forms of violence, specifically interpersonal violence, meaning someone within the household, a spouse, a parent, or a child may also be a victim of abuse.


UConn Animal Law Clinic

Court-appointed animal advocates

How to report animal abuse

The link between child abuse and animal cruelty