CONNECTICUT ANIMAL CRUELTY STATUTE IS “FOR THE BIRDS”
Connecticut state law has a broadly worded animal cruelty statute. Yet, at this time last year, that statute was simply overlooked by the New Haven Police Department and Animal Control in the face of a clear case of animal cruelty, which was both intentional and malicious. This prejudicial oversight by these bodies must be corrected.
In July of last year, Palomacy posted an urgent request for the rescue of six (6) domesticated pigeons. Palomacy is a nationwide group of volunteers, based out of San Francisco, who rescues domesticated pigeons and doves. The post concerned six pigeons in New Haven, Connecticut that someone was trying to sell on Craigslist for dog training. Domesticated pigeons are sometimes used in this cruel way. They are never out of their small cage except for training sessions. Training sessions ordinarily involve wrapping electrical tape or duct tape around the feathers of the birds and stuffing them in bushes. The idea is that the dogs find the pigeons and bring them back to the owner unharmed. Of course, that is why it is called dog “training” since the dogs don’t understand the “unharmed” part right away.
The Palomacy post was an urgent call out for help for these six birds, which were advertised on Craigslist for sale at $10 a bird. The ad showed six, very thin, domesticated pigeons in a cramped cage, missing noticeable clumps of feathers and looking generally unhealthy. Paola Chacon-Paul (“Paola”) responded to this call out for help. She spoke to the man selling the pigeons. He identified himself as Hadj Monsour (“Monsour”). He wanted $10 a bird plus money for their small, rusty cage. By the end of the conversation, he refused to take less than $100. This was fine with Paola since she only wanted to save these birds from their torture. They agreed to meet at what Paola believed to be Monsour’s home in New Haven on July 31, 2022. Instead, the address took her to a Mobil gas station in New Haven.
Paola and her husband, John Paul, live outside of New York City in Westchester County. They drove three and a half hours that day to meet Monsour. But, they were late. As anyone knows who has driven from New York to Connecticut, there is often unpredictable traffic delays. Paola called Monsour and let me him know that they were running about an hour late. This was not a problem for Monsour, as he relayed to Paulo. He and his 10 year old son (who apparently came with him to drop off the pigeons) would go to a nearby Walmart for the hour. They did just that and left the six pigeons in the car. The pigeons were in a small box with no holes for air. It was approximately 85 degrees on July 31, 2022.
When Paola and her husband arrived at the address they had been given by Monsour, they were confused. It was a gas station in New Haven and not his home, and Monsour wasn’t there. When they called him for an explanation, he told them that he was still shopping with his son at Walmart and would be at least another half hour at the store.
When Monsour finally arrived, he took a small box out of his car and threw it into the trunk of Paola and John Paul’s car. The trunk was open because Paola was getting out the six carriers they brought to transport the birds home. Paola and John Paul could not understand what was going on. Why did Monsour throw a box into the trunk? And, how could there be six birds in a closed box with no air holes which was not even 4 inches tall? A pigeon could not even stand in a box that size. As such insanity started to dawn on them, Monsour grabbed the money for the birds from John Paul and literally took off.
Paola and her husband then opened the box. Four (4) of the beautiful pigeons were dead. Two were gasping for air. Paola knew how important it was to cool them down. She poured cold water under their wings and on their bodies and and blew air into their mouths. John Paul tried CPR on two birds that appeared to have just died since both were still twitching. The other two were stiff. This desperate effort went on for about 10 minutes, as the gas station attendant and others watched. Only when the gasping stopped and the two that had lived could take a sip of water, did Paola and John Paul leave the gas station.
Through OnStar, Paola immediately notified the New Haven Police Department about what had just happened. She was told that there was nothing they could do. The officer she spoke to over the phone told her to call Animal Control in the morning because it is responsible for animal cruelty cases. Paola tried the New Haven Police Department again the next day, hoping for a different response by another officer. Nothing changed; however, she was given the number for New Haven Animal Control.
Paola then called Animal Control. She got the same line: There was nothing they could do because she “hadn’t gone to the man’s house” and did not have his address. Paola already learned from the Mobil gas station attendant that there was video footage of the events, undoubtedly including the license plate of Monsour’s car. She also had the Craigslist ad that had the owner’s phone number, and Paola had his name. She also had pictures of the airless box and dead birds. Animal Control insisted that they could not help.
Meanwhile, Paola and John Paul were getting the two birds that survived the help they needed. They found an emergency vet that was willing to see the birds immediately. The pigeons were not only severely dehydrated, but they were emaciated. They were filthy and full of parasites, and their little bodies were badly bruised. One was so dehydrated she needed to remain with the vet for rounds of subcutaneous fluids.
It is high time for incidents like this to change, and this one must be corrected. Had there been six puppies in that miniscule box, left in a hot car with no air or water for at least an hour and half, there most certainly would be action taken, particularly if four died. Connecticut law doesn’t just cover animal cruelty when it comes to dogs and cats. It applies to “any animal.” See CGS Section 53-247(a) Indeed, the New Haven Municipal Code defines “animal” very broadly. It states: “Animal means any brute creature including, but not limited to, dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, birds and reptiles. It shall include quadrupeds and amphibians.” See New Have Municipal Code Sec. 7-1., Definitions, Animal. So, the fact that these beautiful, tortured creatures were domesticated pigeons should not have changed a thing in the way this tragedy was handled. Birds are covered by the state and local animal cruelty statutes.
This was also a clear case of animal cruelty, even malicious and intentional. See CGS Section 53-247. Section 53-247(a) provides that people failing to provide “necessary sustenance” to an animal are guilty of animal cruelty. The statute specifically provides that animal cruelty includes failing to “supply any animal with wholesome air, food and water.” A person “inflicts cruelty” on any animal if he or she “carries it or causes it to be carried in a cruel manner.” See also New Haven Municipal Code Section 7-3(a).
It is undeniable that Monsour did not provide these six birds with “necessary sustenance.” They were knowingly deprived of air and water for at least an hour and a half in a car on a hot day. They were also undeniably carried in a cruel manner. All six pigeons were crammed in a box, no taller than 4 inches, where none could even stand up. The box contained no air and no water for an hour and a half at least. Undoubtedly, these poor birds were trapped in that heartless situation for far longer than that, as Monsour needed to drive from his home to the Mobil gas station, then to Walmart, shop with his son, and then return to Walmart to meet Paola and her husband.
It is unconscionable that such animal cruelty by Monsour didn’t even get him a fine. It didn’t even make it on paper as a police report, especially because it was malicious and intentional. Monsour clearly knew the size of the box he had six birds in. He knowingly left them in that box, without air or water, for a minimum of an hour and a half, in the heat. He left them in that condition, while he shopped at Walmart with his son. The fact that he threw the box in Paola’s trunk and grabbed the $100, then taking off, is further evidence of his knowing brutality. Four birds died that day at Monsour’s hands, and two others were so deprived of oxygen that it is a miracle they survived. The medical records of the emergency vet further show that the two birds who survived had suffered for longer than one day. Both pigeons were severely dehydrated, emaciated, full of parasites, bruised and broken.
It is not too late to prosecute this monsterous act of animal cruelty. And, it is time to start enforcing the animal cruelty laws, as intended. The law is written to cover “birds.” These beautiful birds were also domesticated; just like a puppy or a kitten, they were born in captivity, raised by a human being (fed, watered and given shelter) and have no survival skills. These beautiful six got the bad luck of the draw, like some dogs and cats do, by getting a heartless human as their owner. They deserve the same protection other domesticated animals get and the same justice.