El Paso

New El Paso Police Dept Unit takes aim at animal abusers

Convicted abusers face up to 10 years in prison


EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Police Department is taking aim at those who abuse animals.

The department has created the first Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit made up of four detectives, a sergeant and an officer.

Sgt. Sandra Zamudio is a member of the team.

"We started realizing that there are a lot of cases that go unreported or case that would never make it to a detective or they are not followed up correctly. So that's how the unit came to be," Zamudio said.

The state of Texas is also taking action to end animal cruelty in the state.

Thanks to new legislation passed this year, Texans could now face up to 10 years in prison for animal abuse. Repeat offenders could be sentenced with up to 20 years in prison.

Detective Vanessa Acosta, a member of the El Paso Police Department's Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit, applauds the move.

"Anytime you torture an animal or cause it serious bodily injury, poison other person's animal -- you are looking at a third-degree felony. As far the neglect side where you fail to provide food and shelter you are looking at a class A misdemeanor,"  said Acosta.   

Texas also passed another law this year making it illegal for people to have sex with an animal.

During her some 15 years on the force, Acosta has seen animals that have been starved, beaten, burned and abandoned.  She was so disturbed by the animal cruelty, she created a non-profit animal rescue group called Law N' Paws.

Acosta adopted one dog named Sweet Pea. The small white terrier mix was found with a fractured jaw, fractured skull and injuries to her hips. A vet suspected someone had stomped on Sweet Pea.

"Animal cruelty leads to bigger things. A lot of these people who hurt animals, it's linked to violent offenders. They start out hurting animals and then then move up to hurting humans," Acosta said.

Acosta first recruited family and friends to help her cause and is now looking to the public for donations and people willing to help foster abused animals. The money will be used for food, supplies and vet bills. Many of the animals who have been abused must undergo medical treatment before they are able to be adopted.

Word of Law N' Paws is spreading. The group now has a GoFundMe account and a Facebook page.

Members of the Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit agree members of the community play a vital role in reporting and documenting cases they may suspect or witness.

"People who witness this they need to be their voice and be a good witness. Take photographs and video. It's going to help with these types of cases," said Acosta.

People can call 311 or connect with investigators using Tip 411. Anyone can send an anonymous tip via text to the El Paso Police Department by texting the keyword POPE and your tip to 847411.

Tips may also be submitted online.

The six members of the  Animal Cruelty Investigative unit are passionate about their job and that support is coming from the top of the police department.

"Chief  (Greg) Allen in 100 percent behind this unit. He want to make sure that animals are well cared for here," said Sgt. Zamudio.


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