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The Horrific Truth of Animal Sexual Abuse

Our work is full of joy and of heartbreak. We see the best of what people and animals do for one another, but unfortunately, we sometimes have a front row seat for the worst.

Last week, we responded to a report of an abandoned and injured puppy near Fort Dupont Park in SE DC. When our Animal Control Officer arrived on the scene, he found a sweet, brindle puppy lying on the side of the road; she had been discarded like a piece of trash. On closer inspection, he saw numerous wounds on her body and realized she was unable to use her back legs. Despite her terrible condition, she wagged her tail as Officers examined her. We named her Luna, determined to put her past behind her and give her the love, care, and kindness she deserves.

We rushed Luna to Friendship Hospital for Animals for emergency medical care. Veterinarians at Friendship found that Luna had five broken vertebrae, two of which required surgical stabilization. She also had what appear to be two stab wounds on her chest, and a dislocated hip that may need surgical repair in the future. Worst of all, we discovered injuries that indicated she was brutally sexually abused and was likely strangled.

We believe the abuse occurred over a period of weeks because the injuries have healed in varying stages. Given that Luna is about seven months old, this means she has endured a lot of abuse in her very short life.

The medical team has worked around the clock to care for Luna, and we are optimistic about her prognosis. With continued treatment, Luna is expected to walk again, and we believe she will be able to live a completely normal life. Friendship Hospital for Animals has generously offered to cover the cost of her care, which is estimated to exceed $20,000. We are incredibly grateful to have a community partner like FHA, who help us save and treat animals like Luna with such extensive and urgent care.

Meanwhile, we have launched an aggressive investigation to find the person responsible for Luna’s abuse. This investigation is especially urgent because whomever did this to Luna is capable of violence to other animals – and to people.

Animal sexual abuse is more than a horrible act of animal cruelty – it’s an important and critical indicator of potential issues of human interpersonal violence and sexual predation. There are especially strong indicators of a link between sexual abuse of animals and of people, especially children. A 2008 study of over 44,000 adult men evaluated for sexual misconduct found that bestiality abuse was the largest single risk factor, and the strongest predictor, of increased risk to commit sexual abuse of children.

Although we’ve been advocating for years to outlaw bestiality, the District of Columbia has the unfortunate distinction of being in line with only four states in the country – Hawaii, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming – that still have no law on the books prohibiting sexual contact between people and animals. Laws that explicitly prohibit bestiality are necessary despite existing prohibitions against aggravated animal cruelty because of the varied disturbing forms this type of abuse can manifest. All animal sexual abuse is predatory, cruel, and nonconsensual, and must be outlawed.

Fortunately the Animal Care and Control Omnibus Act of 2019 introduced by Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Anita Bonds is currently pending before the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The bill would make animal sexual abuse a felony in the District and prohibit anyone convicted of sexually abusing an animal in any form from owning or having contact with an animal. We intend to double our efforts to pass this legislation – for Luna’s sake, and for the sake of other animals who may be suffering in the shadows.

Luna isn’t the first animal we’ve cared for who has been sexually abused and she won’t be the last. The prevalence of bestiality is much more common than most people are aware of. We know there are sick, underground networks of online communities that exist to support and connect those with a common interest in this horrific practice. One popular online site -which thankfully has been shut down- boasted a membership of over 1 million users and featured tutorials and networking opportunities for sharing abused animals.  I encourage anyone who works with or around animals, from veterinarians to groomers, to familiarize themselves with the signs of bestiality. The National Link Coalition offers a variety of resources and trainings for more information.

Even when I think I’ve seen it all, a case like Luna’s rocks me to the core. While we work to heal Luna’s body and spirit, we need the community’s help to find the person responsible. Look at the picture of Luna today, and share it with others. With your help and support from generous partners like Friendship Hospital for Animals, we can keep our community safe, bring justice for Luna, and ensure she has the loving and joyful life she has always deserved.

Humane Rescue Alliance investigates second animal sexual abuse case in less than two weeks

The Humane Rescue Alliance is offering a reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for allegedly sexually abusing Owen, a 3-month-old kitten. READ MORE


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