Randy Grim On Animal Cruelty Task Force: "We're Making Huge Progress"
The five dogs were already dead when members of Stray Rescue entered an abandoned Hamilton Heights apartment building in May 2012. All the animals had been tortured. Some were burned, others strangled or crushed before the end.
Stray Rescue During a 2012 press conference, Randy Grim (center) holds up a photo of a dog that had been starved and thrown in a dumpster.
The public uproar over the incident led to the formation of Mayor Francis Slay's Animal Cruelty Task Force in September of that year. Since then, the task force -- comprised of Stray Rescue, city police, the circuit attorney's office and the health department -- has gone after hundreds cases of animal abuse and neglect, earning RFT's "Best Worthy Cause" of 2013.
Below, we've got the latest numbers on animal abuse from the mayor's office, and a status update from the founder of the Stray Rescue animal shelter, Randy Grim.
Since its creation eighteen months ago, the task force has prosecuted over 190 cases of animal abuse, issued over 350 citations and made over 25 arrests for misdemeanor and felony charges, according to officials from the circuit attorney and mayor's office.
via Mandela was left out in the frigid cold and lost a leg but recovered with Stray Rescue's help.
"We're making huge progress," says Grim.
"It wouldn't be successful if we just ran around and arrested everybody. What makes it successful is giving underserved communities the ability to have pets and to take care of them. If they can't afford it, we step in and help them."
When a tip comes in about possible animal abuse, it's Grim who acts as first responder and primary investigator. Then the police arrive.
"They usually meet me at the scene. That's kind of how it works," he says. Grim's got two detectives on his side to handle the sometimes daily barrage of cases. "I contact them directly. I have a direct contact to the circuit attorney's office and the mayor's office, and also with the health department. We all work together."
For years, Grim has been sounding the alarm on the epidemic of animal abuse in the city, especially within the communities of north St. Louis. There, he says, the environmental effects of poverty and violent crime can create horrific living conditions for people and animals alike.
"You really have to help the entire family as a unit, not just the dog," he says.
So the challenge isn't just stopping the abuse, but engaging in what Grim calls a holistic approach to supporting these communities. Stray Rescue members canvass the streets by ZIP code, offering classes on healthy pet ownership, free vet care as well as spay and neuter procedures.
Of course, Grim and his allies are also looking for abused pets.
But when it comes to a violent abuser like Darick Stallworth -- who admitted to killing the dogs in the Hamilton Heights apartment in 2012 -- the solution is prison, not classes.
Stallworth wasn't the only high-profile arrest attributed to the task force:
- In October 2012, Cennitra Fowler was charged with two misdemeanor counts of animal abuse for starving her two dogs. She had thrown one of the dogs in a dumpster, and it later died. Fowler's punishment involved an animal care class at Stray Rescue, one year of unsupervised probation, community service and a $75 restitution fee to the Humane Society of Missouri. (According to online court documents, Fowler has not yet paid the $75. If she doesn't pay up, a judge could revoke her probation.)
- The most well-known case of abuse investigated by the task force was the awful burning death of Brownie the dog. Adrienne Martin -- who had posted to Facebok about being "on a killa mode" -- was charged with felonies in July 2013. Martin and her family dispute the charges. Her next hearing is April 21.
- Wesley Reid was arrested in October 2013 for burning a three-year-old pit bull named Zeus to death. He was charged with two felonies and is awaiting a plea hearing set for April 4. Reid allegedly texted Zeus' owner before he set the dog on fire.