MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – A new animal abuse task force in Southeast Michigan is taking a new and different approach to tackling the problem.
Penalties for animal abusers across the state of Michigan have increased, and now in Macomb County, there's a new task force in place to specifically target and prosecute the cases.
The death of a mixed breed dog named Sterling, who was stabbed to death and left in the icy cold Grant Park in Utica in February, launched a new approach to fighting animal abuse.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said it's about preventing the cases from happening.
"I've never seen anything bring a community together like Sterling has," Smith said.
There were other cases, as well, and the vicious abuse of animals prompted Smith to start the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety task force, or PAWS.
He also assigned three prosecutors to work with area police agencies to go after animal abusers because there's new research that links animal and domestic violence.
"There is a correlation between animal abuse at a young age and future violence," Michigan Humane Society Director Molly Tamulevich said. "There is also a connection between domestic violence and elder abuse, child abuse."
"Two or three members of this unit are also assigned to the domestic violence unit because, as Molly pointed out and I have pointed out, we see such a crossover," Smith said. "We've got to do something to stop this."
Brian Pylar is Eastpointe's chief animal control officer and part of the Detroit PIT team. He said he's happy to see this new effort.
"Sometimes what you think of it -- maybe they had a history of domestic abuse," Pylar said. "Some of it is the start. It's like a gateway, and it's unfortunate."