In Northwest Dallas, Cat Killings Have DPD, Animal Services Investigators Troubled

The furry fellow you see at right is Bill, my across-the-street neighbor's 12-year-old cat who, sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, was chopped in half, his front quarters deposited in another neighbor's front lawn. In a next-door neighbor's front yard was the back half of a second cat, this one white; his owners have not been identified, perhaps because his front half has not yet been located. Neither has Bill's hindquarters.

I mentioned this last night in the comments of this Monday-morning item, after a Friend of Unfair Park who lives in my Norhtwest Dallas neighborhood noted the grisly deaths and that "similar cat killings have been reported near Royal Lane and Webb Chapel recently." Dallas Police spokesman Kevin Janse told me yesterday that no police reports were filed in those instances, but one was indeed filed yesterday: The neighbor who discovered Bill -- who appeared "to have been chopped in half with a machete," according to his heartsick owner, Melissa, a family friend -- called 911. A report was filed. The offense: "cruelty to animals."

The problem is, the Dallas Police Department has no way to tell whether the killing were committed by a person or, say, stray dogs, which have been a recurring problem in East Dallas. That is because Dallas Animal Services, which said it would come retrieve the cats, never showed up. The police report says that Sanitation instead picked up the bodies; my wife says a neighbor wound up putting the cats into garbage bags so kids returning home from their first day of school wouldn't have to see them.

Chief David Kunkle cautioned me on Monday, "Most of the time they're going to be dog attacks or coyotes, not animal cruelty cases. Animal cruelty issues fall more into the urban myth, where you have ritualistic killings." But this morning, he asked Lt. Kimberly Stratman, who works in the DPD's Family Violence Squad, to follow-up, because, she acknowledges, "There's quite a bit of confusion and bungling because there's not a [standard operating procedure]" for handling cases like this. Indeed, she's been charged with rewriting the policy, which hasn't been updated since 1991.

A police detective has not been assigned to investigate the killings. Instead, Dallas Animal Services animal-cruelty investigator Federico Chavez has been tasked with looking into them. That's because "this isn't just a one-time incident," says Senior Corporal Kimberly Crawford, a detective in the Northwest Operations Division who will be working with Chavez should he need the assist. "Apparently, other cats have been mutilated in the area."

A message has been left for Chavez. But the DPD is particularly concerned about yesterday's gruesome discovery: "This isn't the norm, to have dogs or cats mutilated like that," Janse says. "It's a telltale sign there's something wrong with the person doing this, and we need to take this extremely seriously and try to find the people doing this, because it could lead to violence against humans. We've seen that in the past."

Alas, investigators will have a difficult time trying to find out who killed Bill, because they no longer have access to his remains -- they've been disposed of. Which is why Stratman is in the midst of rewriting department procedure, per her superiors' request.

"The way we'd like this to be handled is: The call comes into 911, patrol takes the report, it's then assigned to an investigator, the investigator does the investigating, and then patrol would call physical evidence to take pictures or seize the body," she says. "Then, Animal Services would get the body for the investigation. I can't be critical of the officers [yesterday] because they had no training in this, but we need the evidence. That way a vet who's trained in animal abuse, etc., could do the exam and then could say what killed the cat. Right now we don't know because it was taken to the garbage."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky